How Do You Know if You're Wealthy?


Success stories are regular features of The Motley Fool'sRule Your Retirementnewsletter service, where we share profiles of people who have become financially independent. One of the most remarkable stories we've come across is that of Akaisha and Billy Kaderli, who retired two decades ago at the age of 38 and began traveling the world. They wrote the popular booksThe Adventurer's Guide to Early RetirementandYour Retirement Dream IS Possible.

In 1988, when we were first contemplating leaving the traditional working world and replacing it with a life of travel, wealth was described only in terms of having money and possessions. Our decision to create a lifestyle of our choice was met with controversy. Some friends and family disapproved, while others became angry or confused. In general there was fear, doubt, and dire warnings of our social and financial collapse. That's because our decision challenged everyone we knew.

In 1991, at the age of 38, we made the leap to our National Geographic lifestyle despite our peers' advice. A decade later -- after the dot-com bubble burst and real estate values began to collapse -- wealth became connected to having more control over our daily schedule. In these days, the buzz was all about "quality time" with those we loved or time to travel, to pursue a hobby or personal path of one's choice.

Frugal was "the new black" and in vogue.

Life is not one-size-fits-all. You are the only one who knows what's important to you, what you value, and what sort of life you dream to live. You are also the only one who can give that away or trade your dreams in because you are afraid or have lost belief in the possibility to make them happen.

For us, adopting this vagabond lifestyle has always been about freedom: the freedom to choose where we lived and how long to stay; the freedom to sample different cultures for longer than a two-week vacation. We were free to volunteer our time -- and it became a priority because we were financially independent and didn't have to concern ourselves with the basic needs of living. We discovered that amazing opportunities, in every category of interest, presented themselves to us, and we took advantage of them.

This was the pot of gold we were seeking: continental traveling, making global friendships, learning languages, living among the indigenous, enjoying traditional cuisines of the world, and living history firsthand.

Money matters
To build a life of your own choosing, it does take some sort of financial cushion to make it happen. But one does not need to be "massively wealthy" to create a fulfilling lifestyle that is outside the box of traditional description.

We are a perfect example of this, as we would not be considered wealthy by means of financial measure. Case in point, we have chosen not to own a car and we don't have a brick-and-mortar home with the accompanying pressure of mortgages and a home's need for repair and maintenance. However, we do consider ourselves rich because we live a life most only dream of. We have global experiences, decades of colorful memories, a developed sense of self-reliance, and a belief in our future. This is priceless.

The basics
Do you know how much you spend every month to maintain your current lifestyle? Are you carrying debt on your credit cards, for school loans or cars? Have you ever tracked your spending to find out how much you pay out per year for housing, transportation, food or dining, and entertainment? Do you know what you spend on a per-day basis?

Knowing how much you spend and where your money goes today gives you the information you need to make necessary changes. These lifestyle decisions will help you to accumulate the finances to allow your dreams to blossom.

What's next?
Save as much as you can and invest it wisely.

The only way your dreams can come true is to develop responsibility for the financial decisions you make. No matter what is happening in the world around you, or where you find yourself financially today, commit yourself to self-determination and move in the direction you want to go. Cut your losses, learn from your mistakes, and move forward.

If you think all of this is too far out of your personal reach, we say this: Never underestimate the power of passion and persistence. These qualities are the "great equalizer."

Passion for your dream and your persistence in making it happen will do more for you in the long run than a big paycheck or a lucky break.

The future is yours to be had, and no one can take it away from you unless you allow it. Hard work, human decency, and a little ingenuity can take you anywhere. This is a fundamental view for those who achieve success.

Follow your dreams.

Reach your dreams
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Originally published