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Dave Ross
Retirees Billy and Akaisha Kaderli have house-sat on Lake Chapala, the largest natural lake in Mexico - and they say the view is pretty fantastic. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

Couple retired since age 38: Americans don't realize how wealthy they are

I can report to you that one of the Internet's most famous retired couples is still comfortably retired.

"We are currently living on Lake Atitlan Panajachel, Guatemala," says Billy Kaderli.

It was in 1991 that Billy Kaderli and his wife Akaisha decided that, at age 38, since they were tired of the Southern California rat race, and they didn't have children - he would quit his stockbroker job, she would quit running their restaurant, they would sell everything and retire.

What's surprising, and why their story's been so popular, is that they were not millionaires, and they didn't have some exotic investment strategy.

"We invested into index funds and have been living off our investments ever since," Kaderli told Dave Ross on a recent edition of the ROSSFIRE podcast.

And just how much money did they have in their nest egg? "We had approximately $500,000."

They are now going on 24 years of retirement, using the proceeds of that $500,000 in a way such that they actually keep getting richer.

"We basically follow what's called a 'four percent rule,' and that means you can withdraw, basically four percent of your net-worth and live off of that. Four percent of $500,000 was $20,000, and we could get by off of that without any problem. Today our net-worth has increased since that time period. When we retired in 1991 the S&P 500 was at 312.49 at the day we retired. And as of yesterday I think it's around 1850 or so."

Which would technically make them millionaires now. "Very humble millionaires," said Kaderli.

One of their secrets - besides not having kids - is to keep traveling. Which you'd think would be expensive. Except a lot of the time, their lodging is free.

They house-sit for rich people.

"We just spent six months in Mexico, right on a lake, in a four-bedroom, three bath home, with maids and gardens and there was a 180-degree view of Lake Chapala. It was just beautiful," said Akaisha.

It almost sounds unfair to the rich person that owns that house! They're working that stock market job to maintain that thing. All the while the Kaderlis are enjoying their house.

And the reason more people don't do what the Kaderlis did?


"I think that people are afraid," said Kaderli. "I think that in the U.S. many people have the assets but they just have the fear that holds them back."

It's the thought of sitting on the beach in Guatamala enjoying the view when the Dow Jones crashes. What then?

Kaderlis joked, "rice and beans."

But really, the couple has endured more than one market plunge.

"We've survived several of those market crashes," said Akaisha. "The dot-com bubble and the Great Recession. And one of the ways we do that is we track our spending. We know in real time what it is that we're spending and how much of a percentage it is of our net worth. We are in control of our finances and our future."

As for what it would take today to do what the Kaderli's did in 1991 - probably a nest egg of about a $1 million. But they say they've met Americans living in Guatemala, Mexico and Thailand just on their social security.

"I think a lot of Americans don't realize how wealthy they are," said Akaisha. "They get bombarded constantly with the pressure to consume and the pressure to buy new things, digital toys and new clothing and new entertainment systems and new cars. And if you don't have the newest, the latest, the best - then you're somehow poor, or sub-par. When, with all of our years of travel, two decades now, we see how little one really needs to be happy. I'm not talking poor, I'm just talking unencumbered by all this stuff that we don't have. When we go visit our families - and they live in wealthy areas of the states - they just seem less happy and they've got more stuff."

Retirees Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are debating where their next retirement stop will be: the view house in Mexico or on to Asia again.

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Dave Ross, KIRO Radio Morning News Anchor
Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.
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