Because we run a popular website, from time to time we receive emails from our readers asking us if we are really retired. Some people scoff and say we can't be because we sell books and have ads on our site.
We left the workforce at the age of 38 in 1991, called ourselves retired, and have been living off our investments ever since. But apparently there are rules one must follow in order to actually qualify as "retired." Yet people's unique situations defy categorization.
Are you retired if you own several properties and receive rental income from them? What if your passion is building boats, and you sell one? What if you're a musician who occasionally takes a paid gig? What about a professional athlete who retires and then receives income from product endorsements?
As another example, take a man who considers himself retired while his wife still works and brings home income. The husband is on his wife's employer-sponsored health-care plan. Does this scenario tarnish his retired status?
Some even say they could never retire because they couldn't sit around "doing nothing" all day -- as if that were how we live our lives.
Who cares what labels others place on you?
One of the reasons we left the working world was that there were too many rules to follow. We enjoy our freedom and like to decide how to spend our own time. While we didn't have a term for it when we retired in 1991, "financial independence" best describes our lifestyle.
What does it mean to be financially independent? To us it means you're not dependent on a job for a source of income. You can choose to work or not as you please, and you can decide what to do with your time without needing permission from a boss or anyone else. If you want to start a foundation, volunteer, or pick up some cash here and there by consulting, no one can make you feel as if you've lied by not sitting in an armchair and watching TV reruns.
Once you are no longer dependent on a paycheck, all sorts of opportunities arise for you to leverage your skills, experience, and free time. For example, we've spoken at an International Living conference in Cancun and helped to open a Four Seasons Resort on the tiny island of Nevis, West Indies. These were wonderful and challenging experiences.
Not everyone loves the idea of being retired. Some people love to stay busy and see retirement as stagnation. However, my guess is that everyone likes the idea of being financially independent. What's the difference? It seems to be a matter of perception.
Call us what you want. We consider ourselves to be financially independent, retired, and free to do as we please with our lives.
After all, isn't that what post-work life is all about?
About the authors
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the books The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.