Could retirement before you're even eligible to join AARP be the quintessential impossible dream? Not if you're consistently disciplined, focused, driven and don't give a hoot about what the Joneses think of that beat-up Chevy in the driveway, say experts.
Living to work is a philosophy increasingly questioned by those approaching retirement age. Many are finding out they favor living instead of working, opting out of the daily grind even before traditional early retirement at 50-something. To tout their views, these extreme retirees are encouraging others to follow suit, telling their stories on Web sites and in interviews.
Bankrate found two couples eager to share their tales of extreme early retirement: Billy and Akaisha Kaderli, who split their time between Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Mesa, Ariz., and Sandy Aldridge and Dale Lugenbehl, of Cottage Grove, Ore. Though their lifestyles are vastly different, they share many traits.
Set free to roam the world
The Kaderlis can count themselves as members of a small group of founders of the extreme early retirement trend among baby boomers. Now in their 17th year of retirement, the couple ditched their 9-to-5 jobs when they were 38 years old.
At 55, they say they would have made the same choice again, only investing sooner and with more confidence. The Kaderlis' initial $500,000 nest egg has grown steadily, partly because they hung in the stock market through the '90s boom and the historic bust that followed, and partly because they've lived on an average of just $24,000 a year. Initially, they put all their savings in a low-cost index fund.
The Kaderlis say that 38 was an excellent age to retire, because they had accumulated life experiences through their careers: He was a former restaurant chef and owner, and at one time, the youngest branch manager at brokerage Dean Witter, while she continued to run the restaurant.
"We retired with youth, vigor and plenty of enthusiasm to venture out into traveling the globe. Retiring earlier, we would not have acquired enough skill or self-knowledge about how we are able to interact with the world," the couple says.
The Kaderlis sold their home when they retired and remained homeless while they explored the world, spending time in the Caribbean island of Nevis, as well as in Venezuela, Mexico and Thailand. They recently purchased a small home in an Arizona retirement community, and now split their time between Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Mesa, Ariz., when not traveling.
Their Web site, www.retireearlylifestyle.com, gives them the opportunity to communicate with other extreme early retirees, as well as educate the younger generation. Their advice to 20-somethings who want to follow the same path is simple: Save everything and stay out of debt.