Success stories are regular features of The Motley Fool's 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 Akaisha and Billy Kaderli, who retired two decades ago at the age of 38 and began traveling the world. They wrote the popular book The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement, and the Guide to Chapala Living. Here they discuss how returning to simplicity can bring your retirement closer to you by years.
We baby boomers have acquired a reputation for altering anything we touch. We have been described as a consumer market to be tapped into by those wanting to profit from our seemingly endless appetites for consumption. "Having it all" was a mantra of our age group, one we wore with pride. We displayed our wealth in all of the accepted avenues.
Some, however, found that "having it all" has developed into a sort of golden noose that keeps them stuck working and paying bills with no end in sight. The American middle class has been one of the most affluent groups of people ever, even with the humbling effects of the recent collapses in the housing and financial markets. Yet we kept moving the goalposts marking our satisfaction level, and instead of having a greater sense of fulfillment, many continue to feel discontented.
Some of us, because of our spending choices, have not saved enough to retire and maintain the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed.
Or so we think.
Why not pare down a consumer-based manner of living and choose simplicity instead? Opting for an uncomplicated life doesn't mean hardship or lack. More accurately, it reflects the efficiency of a well-oiled machine. There is nothing shameful in choosing value over indulgence, shopping thoughtfully and with intention instead of on impulse.
For some, this movement to simplification can be especially tough. But if your wishes don't fit your paycheck, why not reconsider the unnecessary stress that these desires are placing on your life? How many more clothes can you squeeze into your closet? Do you really need 200 TV stations? Can you get by with one car rather than two?
You've got too much stuff!
For those considering financial independence, settling for the basics is an attractive option. Recent studies suggest that, in the long run, experiences make people happier than possessions. The initial joy of acquiring something new, such as a car, fades over time as we become used to seeing it every day. Experiences continue to provide happiness through memories and re-telling tales for years into the future.
Why don't we focus on gaining more satisfaction out of our lives, instead of buying more things? One reason comes from our consumer culture. Everything from our cereal boxes in the morning to the evening movie we watch on our flat-screen TVs all shout out to us of things we "need to have."
Your happiness is more important than that. More importantly, being open to alternatives in your future retirement lifestyle could even pay dividends in your current life as well.
A simple plan: take control
Many of us are swimming in a sea of debt. You may feel like you can barely stay afloat, let alone get back to shore.
But try this experiment: For the next 30 days, record where you spend every penny. No cheating. No saying, "Oh, that coffee doesn't count." Then take a hard look at where your month's income has gone. If you can get into this habit every day, you'll soon see how much unnecessary stuff you buy, and you'll think twice before wasting your money in the future.
This one habit can bring your dream of retirement closer to you by years.
So you want to be a millionaire?
Where you cut expenses is up to you. For instance, we have good friends who have not owned a vehicle for 30 years. We figure they have saved well over $200,000 throughout this period in auto expenses -- even after considering the costs of public transportation and the occasional car rental.
Stuff, which ultimately gives little meaning to life, is a sinkhole on your road to financial independence. It's time to get yourself back onto a simpler path to happiness.
Have you forgotten to set aside money for retirement? Let Fool retirement expert Robert Brokamp show you the way to start saving today.
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 RetireEarlyLifestyle.com. The Fool has a disclosure policy.