Success stories are regular features of our Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter 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 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli. At age 38, they left their fast-track lives and started traveling the world. We caught up with them in Chapala, Mexico. Here, Billy and Akaisha let us know that even though their portfolios are down, their spirits are not.
It's a profound lesson.
Some of the best financial minds in the business had not predicted this severe a drop in the market nor its volatile swings. Many of us have seen our retirement savings go through the grinder and our future dreams left in shreds.
But we've been through tough financial storms before, such as the 1987 stock market crash and the long and chilly bear market of 2000-2002. And without trying to sound like Pollyanna, it is during these significant drops in the markets that we find ourselves to be the most grateful.
Before you reject this idea out of hand, hear us out. When our financial futures seem unpredictable and world events are clearly out of our hands, these are the exact times where we are forced to look at what security means in other ways. These situations compel us to recognize the personal capital we have as human beings.
Researching previous bear markets, we use history as a guide and take heart from the knowledge that these downturns have always ended. In times past, we decided on a specific number that our nest egg would reach before we would choose to go back to work. We also discussed the type of work we would look for, as well as how much money we would need to earn to compensate for the market's losses.
If those new jobs would require another vehicle purchase, a long commute with the consequent fuel expense, or a new wardrobe, we weighed that against living the lifestyle we've been enjoying for almost 20 years. We know that flexibility with each other and with our financial choices is important. We also know that simply sitting home and obsessing isn't productive.
In the end, we've decided it's more important to us to continue to travel the world as long as we're able. We as Americans have been deeply blessed with opportunity and wealth, and living among people who have never seen such favor brings a point home to us: This is our time to give.
As we have done in previous times when our portfolio has suffered a beating, we take the occasion not to dwell on what has been lost, but rather to volunteer and give to those who would never be able to live the fortunate lifestyle that we have created. We are still able to give of ourselves, because our future is not completely tied up in what our financial statements say, and we value the astounding worth of our human currency.
If we look around us, we find that there are always people worse off than we are. Our ability to give from our experience and talents is vast. This is a significant source of valuable exchange, and it enriches our lives far beyond a financial asset number.
Sure, you need money to retire early -- but that's only half of the story. No one can forecast the future, and if you're strong enough to take the leap of early retirement, you know that you can manage no matter what's brought upon you.
No one who retires early gets there by following the crowd. You're unique, independent, and in control of your future, even if you have no idea what that future will turn out to be. That's what makes life exciting, right? So at some point you need to have faith, take the leap, and know that everything will work out.
What's important to us as a couple is to not lock ourselves in mentally or creatively. In our experience, it hasn't proved useful to recede into fear or exaggerated "what if" scenarios. We know that it's necessary for us to have fun with the degree of freedom that our personalities require, and we keep these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson close to our hearts: "It's one of the most beautiful compensations in life ... that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."
What you can do
If you're currently retired, or if you're considering retirement as a lifestyle and don't want to give up your dream, consider the following volunteer-related options. Volunteering puts your skills to work and offers you social interaction. It can easily replace costly mindless entertainment options you have previously chosen, and it creates a win-win situation. These exchanges of human currency will enrich your life and the lives of those you touch.
- Assess your talents and experience. Find out where these talents would be appreciated in your part of the world. Could you teach at a community college or coach sports for an evening league? What about donating your organizational skills at a food bank? Could you volunteer in your local hospice program? Help someone get his or her GED? Type in your ZIP code at Volunteer Match to find hundreds of opportunities.
- With the holiday season coming up, why not sort through the items in your garage and closets and gift the bounty to a homeless shelter, a Goodwill near you, or your church or synagogue?
- Do you have a neighbor who is a widow or widower? Cooking that person a meal and delivering it may serve as a break in their personal darkness. Taking your mind off your own troubles and helping out another can dislodge your own negative perspective and allow you to see the wealth you truly have.
For more on coping with the crisis:
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Fool contributors Billy and Akaisha Kaderli write regularly for Rule Your Retirement. They retired in 1991 from the brokerage and restaurant businesses to a life of international travel. Visit their website at RetireEarlyLifestyle.com and check out their new CD book, The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement. The Fool has a disclosure policy.