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True Financial Independence

A regular feature of theMotley Fool Rule Your Retirementnewsletter service is our success stories -- profiles of people who have become financially independent. One of the most remarkable stories is about Billy and Akaisha Kaderli, who, at the age of 38, left their fast-track lives, moved to Nevis, West Indies, in the Caribbean, and started traveling the world. How much does such an exotic early retirement cost? Just $24,000 a year. We caught up with the Kaderlis, currently in Thailand, and in this article, they talk about what to do after you've kissed the boss goodbye.

So you're retired -- now what? Many would say congratulations, but it doesn't end here. Actually, this period is the beginning of another phase of your life, and it can be as exciting as anything else you've done in the past. How you choose to spend your time once you no longer need the income from an ordinary job is something you seriously need to consider. Sitting around to reward yourself for work well done might be appealing at first, but once the novelty of retirement wears off, you may find yourself itching for something more gratifying. This is where the real payoffs of life come from.

When our lives are filled with work-related challenges, household duties, or health and family needs, we often have tunnel vision. Barely are there moments for conversation, and people can blur through our lives without much fanfare. We're running on the treadmill, catching up with the TV news, and talking on the cell phone simultaneously. Hobbies take a back seat, sometimes for years. There is no down time.

The pace of retirement is less rigid. This fresh approach toward life allows us simply to sit quietly in a park or relax, leisurely having a latte in the newest coffee shop. We flip through a weekly event newspaper and notice a whole landscape of attractive options for self-expression. Discovering that there is no adequate recycling program for our town, we resolve to start one. The local school needs a drama coach, the city's garden club wants a speaker, or the animal rescue facility is looking for a volunteer twice a week. We check our personal planner, and for the first moment in years, there's room on our calendar. We find this fact thrilling, and one thing leads to another.

If you are at all computer-savvy, you could help people become familiar with how to operate a computer, WebTV, or mail station. This is a life-changing skill to those afraid of moving into the cyber world. You could coach Little League teams and discover the power and influence of service, or learn to paint on canvas and auction your work for your favorite charity.

Once you no longer need a job to pay your bills, opportunities to contribute or make extra cash will appear where you never saw them before. For instance, we've traded our skills as former restaurant owners to help open a Four Seasons Resort Hotel in the Caribbean Islands in exchange for dinners in their exclusive restaurant. Management then asked us to use our expertise to critique the meals and service, helping the management to prepare for soon-to-arrive tourists.

While in Mexico, as in the style of the Peace Corps, we taught the owners of a neighborhood photography shop how to make and market photos into note cards. The many travelers who visited the area eagerly bought these up, creating a side business and generating much-needed income for this local family.

On a private note, we were also fortunate to be the caregivers to our terminally ill parents for months at a time. Cherished memories were made, and we were able to share lessons about life and death.

Here's how to get started on the road to true financial independence:

1.Educate yourself about financial terms. Find a fee-based financial planner instead of one who gets paid via commissions or on a percentage. Better yet, use no-load mutual funds and do it yourself. Remember, YOU are your strongest advocate.

2.Commit to a certain amount or percentageof your income each month to put toward your investments. Keep this commitment!

3.Find out where your money is going. Cut expenses wherever you can. Simplify your life, and bank the difference. Then cut some more to reach your objective. Know what is important to you in life.

4.Get your spouse and children on the same trackfor your family's goals. This support is vital. Ask what each member is willing to do to contribute to your family's plan, and help each other keep to that promise. Make it fun; be creative.

The point is, the same vigor and purpose you took to your everyday job can be transferred to the next stage of your life. Relax, have fun, and enjoy making a difference in someone else's life. The satisfaction you receive from these experiences become the currency of your life. They will enrich you far greater than any paycheck.

In 1991, Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired from the brokerage and restaurant businesses to a life of international travel. Visit their website atRetireEarlyLifestyle.com, and check out their new CD book, The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement.


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