How and Why we Retired at 38


This incredibly inspiring couple has done what most of us only dream about because it’s widely considered impossible. They retired at age 38! That was nearly three decades ago and they are still happily living and loving their retired life. They’re here to tell you how they’ve done it – and how you can too. This is the first in a series of articles that needs to be at the top of your reading list!

A somewhat typical day in our world

We did retire at the age of 38. We did risk our secure lifestyle for one of pursuing the unknown. We did become financially independent at a time when there weren’t any road maps for this. And we did it without inheriting wealth – or winning the lottery!

We have been living a dream lifestyle of travel, and few possessions, for over two decades. But that doesn’t mean we have given up luxury. We housesit in gorgeous homes, have our digital toys to keep us both entertained and informed, and we don’t really lack for anything, I’m pleased to say.

How have we done it?

It boils down to this: we opened up to opportunities and options that presented themselves – and didn’t let fear hold us back. We worked hard and we saved hard and we lived by the motto of delayed gratification for a good many years to make this possible.

We’ll be sharing some helpful articles with Wodara readers to help explain things for you in more detail over the coming months.

For now, it probably makes the most sense to say that there could be many angles for presenting our story. Perhaps you would like to ask us some specific questions in the comment section below and we could respond personally to you via email. We will happily do that for you!

Our 23 years of early retirement have turned us into experts in financial independence, world travel, medical tourism and basically looking at the ‘old story’ with different eyes.

Always up for a good laugh - no matter where we are

Always up for a good laugh – no matter where we are

What Others Thought

It was January, 1991. The Gulf War had just started and there was not yet any word to describe what we were planning to do. In fact, the road we were taking was barely visible. It was an unmarked trail.

Some people thought we were crazy to put our financial and social lives in danger like this. Others just looked at us with pity, knowing we’d be back in a few months with our tails between our legs, begging for re-entry into the world we seemed so willing to chuck for the sake of adventure.

We might be retired, but we still enjoy some essential luxury!

We might be retired, but we always enjoy a touch of luxury here and there!

Even though Billy and I both had trepidation over this decision to leave the conventional working world, and venture out on a lifestyle of travel, we had taken two years to plan this out. We had to be ready. And if we weren’t, well, we’d figure it out somehow along the way.

People had been telling us ‘It can’t be done’ all of our lives. It wasn’t so much that we were trying to prove them wrong, but looking back, it did add to the fun of it!

How it all Started

Let me back up a bit.

Billy was a trained French Chef. Together, we owned a successful California-French restaurant in Central California – for a decade! It was located near the yacht harbor, just minutes from the beach and, at the time, it was considered to be one of the best in our tourist beach town.

We were so successful that five years into our ownership of this culinary enterprise, my business-minded husband was recruited by a financial brokerage house and offered a job he could not refuse. We decided that he would become a fully vested member of Wall Street and I would run the restaurant in his absence.

Dreams of vacations disappeared!

Our restaurant in Santa Cruz, California was very close to here

Our career choices were never easy, but now, with Billy’s days tied to the New York Stock Exchange, my schedule was 180 degrees from his. I worked nights, weekends and holidays, and – due to the three-hour time difference between New York and California – he was off at one in the afternoon and only worked Monday through Friday.

Trouble in Paradise

The long and short of it is that stress became super-stress and we were like passing ships in the night. Something had to change!

Billy has always been a numbers guy, and he came to me one day with this outrageous plan. We’d quit our jobs and travel the world!

‘Um. Yeah.’

‘No, really,’ he insisted.

‘But what about our house? My family? What would we do for money? How could we afford it?’ (And what about the life I had been planning; it surely wasn’t this!)

So what’s the Plan, Stan?

Billy had it all organized. His idea was that we would take two years to track what we were spending on ourselves – minus the cost of working. We would therefore subtract the expenses of dry cleaning, lunches out, high priced vacations, our gardening and maid services, the price of work clothing and other employment costs.

I love my Billy!

I love my Billy – always full of brilliant ideas!

He looked at what we were spending over the past few years and said that if we could live comfortably on that amount for the next two years – while we were still employed – then we could do it for real!

Or something like that.


We were 36 years old and I figured this plan would buy us two more years – max. And besides, maybe he would forget about it.

We sold the restaurant and I took a day job in an attempt to revitalize some romance and place me on the same working schedule as him. Then we fired our lawn and house cleaning services. We started to do our own laundry, mow the lawn and clean our own house again. We packed our lunches and eased up on expensive wines and lattes.

Could we be comfortable in this sort of lifestyle long-term?

One of the locations we've been frequenting for years with our new lifestyle

One of the locations we’ve been frequenting for years with our new lifestyle

In the Old Days…

The most difficult part of this whole transitional process was that there was no support system in place for ‘professional vagabonds.’ The word ‘Location-Independent Living’ hadn’t been invented yet, nor had email, electronic bank transfers, safe withdrawal rates, or downloadable books or music.

I mean, think about it.

When we finally let go and began traveling, we wrote letters in long hand to family from countries abroad, addressed them, put a stamp on them and dropped them inside the nearest dusty post office. A month or two later, our family received them. Phone calls cost $2 a minute from Mexico and a quick half-an-hour chat cost $60 bucks. Hefty price to say ‘hello!’

We prepaid our credit cards in advance so that we could use them at all… no point in trying to receive our statements in St. Somewhere. We were “forced” to either return to the States during tax time (there was no e-filing at the time), or have our accountant be our proxy and sign for us.

Our camera was an old Nikon SLR with interchangeable lenses, all of which weighed a TON. Books and magazines in English were worth their weight in gold and I found myself hungry for a copy of Cosmopolitan or Vanity Fair that were two and three years old!

These Days

That was almost 23 years ago. Today, the choice to become financially independent and live a lifestyle of travel is So. Much. Easier!

Another of the places we frequent

Another of the places we frequent

We utilize email, Skype and social media to keep in touch with friends and family. Photos are digital and are kept on a hard drive or up in the cloud. Ninety-nine percent of our bills and financial transactions are done online with the click of a key. We can get our news in an instant with 24/7 worldwide coverage. We download movies, take online courses, and order music or books from Amazon or from hundreds of businesses who offer what we’re looking for.

Our first computer to run our restaurant was an Apple 2e, cost nearly $4,000, had 64kb of memory on a floppy disk (!) and took over the whole desk. Today, we each have our netbooks for a fraction of that cost, Gigabytes worth of memory – and they fit into our day pack.

Would you Like to Retire Early?

You may already be past the age of 38, but I think we’ve amassed enough knowledge over the past 23 years to help show you how you can retire much earlier than you had previously expected.

We’ll start to tell you how in our next article (click here to see how you can keep in touch so you don’t miss any of our upcoming articles).

We look forward to helping you to learn how you too can enjoy the lifestyle we’ve been loving for the past 23 years!



2 responses to “How and Why we Retired at 38

    • Hi Henrietta,
      You make excellent points. I have found that in my life, I will often want seemingly conflicting things, like “home” and “travel.” Sometimes I have to prioritize (Freedom to come and go at will took precedence over owning a home with those financial responsibilities. I could not afford both)
      And sometimes I am able to combine these apparently contradictory desires. (I bring my favorite digital books, I have my favorite coffee, we get involved with the locals right away and make friends, we house sit, etc.)
      Challenging our routines – while that can be uncomfortable at times – opens up our world and our perspectives. The payoff for having made these choices has enriched our lives and given us practical skills. Not to mention the self-confidence it engendered!
      Remember, though, there is no one right way to live a life!


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