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. In their late 30s, they left their fast-track lives and started traveling the world. We caught up with them in Chapala, Mexico. Here, Billy and Akaisha address ruling your retirement.

Your 401(k) is in the dumpster and your home equity is all but depleted. Retirement was right around the corner -- or so you thought. 

The question now is: Where do you go from here? 

Before you can plan where to go, you have to know where you are. The first place to start is by figuring out what you have -- doing a full financial inventory to get a complete picture of what the downturn has done to your retirement prospects.

Adding it up 
First, substantiate your net worth by taking your assets minus liabilities. Find the true value of your home from a service like and subtract your mortgage balance. This will give you the current equity value in your home. Next, add any other assets, including stocks, bonds, IRAs, and any retirement accounts through your employer. Conservatively estimate the worth of your cars, expensive china, jewelry, boat, furnishings, coin collections, tools and artwork that you own which has value. Add all of this up, subtract out any other debts you have, and you'll find your total net worth.

Next you need to know your living expenses: the amount of money you are spending monthly or annually. This figure can easily be obtained from your past financial records. What if you sold your house and car and had no mortgage, no payments and no debt? What would your monthly expenses be now?

The bare essentials
We know it's a stretch for most people to consider selling everything, and you cannot live in a box, but stick with us here on this. It's important to know where you stand with your finances, your debt and most importantly, your net worth.

If this figure were invested, what rate of return would you need in order to generate enough money to cover your living expenses? Is this a doable proposition? Don't forget that your Social Security payments and any pension you might have will be adding to your future income.

Now, bailout!
If you're coming up short, look at other areas of the world where costs of living are lower. Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Ecuador, the Philippines and Thailand are a few retirement havens where North Americans have happily been living for years.

Online forums are a reliable source of information on living as an expatriate and will help you learn about particular foreign retirement locations. There are forums for each country listed above, and if you have questions about retirement visas, how to register a car, or obtaining local health insurance, this is the place to do your research. Believe us: You would not be the first to pack up and leave the Land of the Free to carve out a comfortable retirement lifestyle elsewhere. These places have been bargains for decades, and with the recent rebound of the U.S. dollar, they are even more so.

We have been living in Chapala, Mexico, for the last five months. Our costs during this period -- including one month of traveling throughout the country -- have been less than $50 per day. With that, we've paid for lodging, food, transportation, and entertainment. We eat well, play tennis, socialize, and travel comfortably on that amount and want for nothing. Many here, in one of the largest expatriate communities in the world, easily live on less than we do.

Now is the time
We encourage you to look at your options, and make a plan today to bail out of the rat race. In many cases, your quality of life will improve along with your health in this new lifestyle. There will be less stress, better weather, new adventures and friends -- all of which will combine to give you new reasons for living. It might be your greatest investment yet.

For more on retiring well:

Fool contributors Billy and Akaisha Kaderli write regularly for the Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. They retired in 1991 from the brokerage and restaurant businesses to a life of international travel. Visit their website at and check out their new CD book, The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement. The Fool has a disclosure policy.