097: How to Retire Abroad with Keith & Tina Paul *
While many people devote time to travel after they retire, even more retirees are now finding new countries to call home – to enjoy an even better quality of life and standard of living.
In their mid-fifties, Keith and Tina Paul decided to leave Southern California to make Ecuador their home. Before retirement, Keith was the Chief Technology Officer for the University of Southern California Medical Center, and Tina owned her own neuropathic medicine practice in California. Since moving to Ecuador, they have also visited over 30 countries in the last year, as well as all 50 United States. They have a hugely popular blog, have appeared on HGTV’s House Hunters International, and continue to enjoy many of the comforts of their former home.
Today, Keith and Tina join the podcast to talk about why they decided to retire abroad in their mid-fifties, the qualities that a person needs to have to adapt well to retiring abroad, and the unique financial planning that makes their lifestyle both fun and sustainable in ways that would have never been possible had they stayed in California.
Please note: For the special giveaway of Job Optional*, we do not currently offer international shipping. Residents outside of the U.S. may obtain a copy of Job Optional* via eBook format upon request to email@example.com.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- Why Keith and Tina chose to retire in Ecuador – and the unique qualities that their new city has that work so well for them.
- How Keith and Tina walked away from what many people consider to be their peak earning years of 50 to 60
- Why people who can work remotely for American companies have an extraordinary opportunity to save money by living overseas and earning domestically.
- Why Keith and Tina rarely feel unsafe in Ecuador, or as travelers in the countries they visit.
- How Keith and Tina get over feeling isolated from their friends and family – and why traveling from California to Florida and traveling from California to Ecuador is almost the same thing.
- How Keith and Tina’s blog offsets their travel expenses and gives them a sense of purpose.
- “If you could have an American job and live in a country like Ecuador with your American wages, you could save so much money.” – Keith Paul
- “You can’t just order something on Amazon and have it shipped here in two days. There’s things you’ve got to get used to, but it’s not like you’re going to do without. You’ve just got to be open-minded. That’s really it. And it’s easy to do.” – Keith Paul
Investment Advisory Services may be offered through Howard Bailey Securities, LLC, a registered investment advisor. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements. The CLU® mark is the property of The American College, which reserves sole rights to its use, and is used by permission. Howard Bailey Financial is a registered trademark of Howard Bailey Financial. All rights reserved. Howard Bailey does not offer legal or tax advice. Please consult the appropriate professional regarding your individual circumstance. Not associated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government agency.
Casey Weade: Keith, Tina, welcome to the podcast.
Keith Paul: Thank you for having us.
Tina Paul: Yeah. Thanks for having us.
Casey Weade: I’m excited to have such world travelers here aboard and then we’re going to be able to have an interesting discussion about something that a lot of our families are starting to talk about these days. It seems a little unusual. However, more and more people are starting to live the retirement lifestyle that you two are. And so, I can’t wait to get into that but I just want to talk about this travel thing. I was on your Facebook page and I see, I mean, you’re not just living in Ecuador. You’re traveling the world from Ecuador as a home base it appears. Tell me about all the different places you’ve been over the last year.
Keith Paul: Yeah. I mean, last year, we were in 20 countries.
Tina Paul: One of those was India. That was probably our most exotic location.
Keith Paul: Yeah. Mostly European travel last year.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Keith Paul: So, we’ve been to…
Tina Paul: About 30.
Keith Paul: Yeah, about 30 some countries and I mean that’s what we do now. We love to travel and this year, we’re focusing a lot on US travel.
Casey Weade: I saw that. It looks like Utah and you made it to Oregon and Montana.
Keith Paul: Yeah. Alaska was our 50th state so now we’ve been to all 50 states.
Casey Weade: You must have a lot of energy to be doing that much travel. That is extensive. So, I can’t wait to get some of your insights there. But I think we have to really start this discussion off about I think one of the standout things about the two of you and that is that you retired abroad. You retired in Ecuador. And I’m just curious what led you to that decision to do something that, you know, not that many individuals are actually doing.
Keith Paul: Yeah. Well, we got a great story. I mean, we’re both very busy kind of executives. Tina is a naturopathic doctor by trade and had her own practice in California and I was the Chief Technology Officer for the University of Southern California Medical Center. I’m busy, busy, busy and we had a timeshare that was going to expire this week of time. We said, “We just got to use it. Let’s go somewhere.” So, we looked online and we found a place. It was kind of quick and it was…
Tina Paul: It was a nonstop flight.
Keith Paul: Yeah. To Antigua, Guatemala. So, we went there.
Tina Paul: And while we were in Guatemala, we met some expats. Now, we didn’t really know what expats were but we met some people who had retired to live a better lifestyle in Guatemala.
Keith Paul: They were Americans.
Tina Paul: They were Americans and they were retirement age. But you know, we said, “Oh, this is a good place to retire. Let’s see what other places are good places to retire.”
Keith Paul: Well, yeah, but they were telling us things like, you know, the cost to live abroad and how cheap it was and I was just like, “Wow, really? Americans can live in other countries?” We didn’t really know that. And this was when we were both 54 years old, right?
Tina Paul: So, Keith does all the math and everything. Well, I guess, we should back up. He found like what he thought were the three or four best places for us. And so, we looked at him really closely and we said, “Okay, Cuenca, Ecuador is the best place.” We had a checklist. We wanted a walkable city, a place we could bring our dogs without having to quarantine them.
Keith Paul: We wanted to be a Spanish-speaking country because we spoke a little Spanish.
Tina Paul: Yeah. A big enough expat community where we would have some other American friends, not necessarily all our friends. What else are we looking for?
Keith Paul: And then, of course…
Tina Paul: Big enough city where there’s enough to do because we get bored easy. We could live in the country.
Casey Weade: We obviously get bored easy as much as you travel, as much as you’ve got going on, jumping out of planes and everything in between.
Keith Paul: Absolutely. I mean, when we went back to California and I did the math, I said, “You know, if we moved abroad, we could retire now. We wouldn’t have to wait until we are 65 or whatever.” I said, “We could actually do it now.” And so, we talked about it and I said, “Let’s do it,” and I gave them…
Tina Paul: Well, first three weeks later, we actually traveled to Cuenca to see if we liked it and we loved it. We spent two weeks here in Cuenca and we kind of live like we would be living. We weren’t here vacationing. We were here to meet other people to go to grocery stores, to really get a feel for the place.
Keith Paul: We did it. I gave seven months’ notice at my job and…
Tina Paul: We put my practice for sale.
Keith Paul: I wanted to retire. I turned 55 in January and I wanted to take advantage of the IRS 72t rule, which I’m sure you’re well aware of. So, I had to retire in the year I turn 55. So, I waited until then and we retired and moved.
Casey Weade: That’s awesome. Now, I wonder what were the reactions of your friends and family and what did you hear from them?
Tina Paul: Some of them thought we were crazy.
Casey Weade: I would imagine.
Tina Paul: My mother-in-law thought we were going to be living in the jungle with guerrilla fighters coming out behind trees.
Keith Paul: Nobody really knows this much about Ecuador other than the Galapagos Islands, you know, so everybody kind of thinks it’s kind of remote. Then you get people who are like, “You’re going to retire early. What are you going to do with your life? Aren’t you going to be bored?”
Tina Paul: But we even had doctors and other colleagues who said, “Can I take you out to lunch and talk to you about this? This is really possible?”
Casey Weade: Yeah, sure.
Keith Paul: So, we had both sides of the thing. Some people who were just fascinated with how we’re doing it, and others thought we are crazy because of where we are moving to or because they thought we’d just be bored in retirement. What am I going to do with my life?
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: All right. Well, that definitely didn’t become the case. You don’t look bored whatsoever. But I wonder, especially some of those colleagues you have, you’re both fairly successful and you’re probably in the peak your earning years, and I find that a lot of individuals that I work with that are in that range of say 50 to 60, during the peak earning years, and it’s just hard to walk away from the money. To some, it feels irresponsible. How were you able to walk away from the money? And was that hard?
Tina Paul: Well, one thing I can say is and we’ve tried to impress this on our kids as we collect memories and experiences, not things. So, you know, we were probably always living a little bit below our means but, yeah, when those things are important to you, you can’t get back those great years of your life. Fifty-five is a lot younger than 65.
Keith Paul: I mean, we traveled a lot throughout our life and our kids. We saw mostly the United States with our kids, so we were big travelers already. So, it wasn’t that big of a change.
Tina Paul: We knew we wanted to travel when we did this. We wouldn’t have – if we were just going to sit at home and watch TV, I’m sure we wouldn’t have been doing this but we knew we wanted to travel a lot more than we were able to.
Casey Weade: Well, I think that’s a perfect segue into one of the questions we have from one of our weekend reading subscribers. So, those that sign up for weekend reading on our site, they get asked if they have any questions for our upcoming guests, and I actually had quite a few really good ones for the two of you. I think this is perfect right here. This is from Brent. And Brent says, “Retiring abroad is probably something that can be a great idea for some people and maybe not so great for others. What are the two or three personal characteristics or qualities that you would say a person should have to be able to adapt well to retiring abroad?”
Keith Paul: Yeah. One of them is you have to be open-minded to other cultures. You can’t expect where you go to be a little America, right? People are different here. It’s such a laid back society. Everything they call it like mañana, everything is tomorrow, right? But I tell you, even though we’re like A-type personalities, it didn’t take us long to just like calm down and not expect things to be fast, fast, fast, fast. So, you got to be open-minded to the different cultures.
Tina Paul: Here where we live, you can’t go look at houses. Realtors don’t work on Sundays. Car dealerships do not sell cars on Sundays. It’s just now that restaurants are starting to be open on Sundays because Sunday is Family Day.
Keith Paul: I would say Ecuador is like 90%, 95% Catholic. So, they hold that Sunday as a family day. So, you can’t like just order on Amazon and have something shipped here in two days so there’s things you got to get used to that you can’t have but it’s not like you’re going to do without. Just, again, you got to be open-minded. That’s just really it. And it’s easy to do. You know, you can come here for a couple of weeks and visit wherever you go and get a good idea what it’s like.
Tina Paul: I think liking people too is really important. You know that way you’re going to have great experiences with local people and you’re going to make friends with other expats. So, I think, you know, enjoying other people is a good thing.
Casey Weade: Yeah. So, enjoying people being very social so maybe a social attitude, as well as being open-minded and just flexible to a new environment. That comes with a lot of benefits. But there’s, of course, some drawbacks. I know, Keith, I’ve heard you say one of your least favorite things. Maybe one of your biggest frustrations was that Amazon thing and not being able to get that package the same day. I can’t imagine that that was your biggest frustration here and I’d also like to hear from Tina.
Keith Paul: No, it really was. That was my biggest frustration.
Tina Paul: All the UPS and FedEx drivers, they all knew us by name in California.
Keith Paul: But, you know, you get used to it so now it’s like we just plan. We keep an ongoing list of things that we want to get when we’re back in the United States and then when we go back to the States, usually the first hotel we’re staying at has about 15 packages waiting for us when we get there.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Keith Paul: Yeah. So, it’s not bad, but it is frustrating because every time we do go back, it’s like, wow, you can just get whatever you want. Like, the next day it’s kind of cool.
Tina Paul: And there are things we never buy here. We don’t buy shoes or clothing here so we go back to the US for those things. And there’s a few food items that we, you know, dry kind of things that we bring back from the US that we liked that we can’t get here.
Keith Paul: Yeah. And you should tell them why but the clothes, the reason we don’t buy clothes here is because we’re too big. The people at Ecuador have a little smaller stature so like the biggest shoe size you can buy here is like a 9 ½.
Tina Paul: For a man.
Keith Paul: For a man.
Tina Paul: And about 8 for a woman.
Casey Weade: That’s fascinating.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: So, shoes and clothing and just a couple of dry goods that you’re missing out on.
Tina Paul: Yeah, that’s really not bad.
Keith Paul: Yeah. Other than that, you know, it’s just again, you can’t expect to get something overnight and just get rid of that thought and live life and you can be happy. You don’t need to be so uptight and want everything right away quick.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: Well, it seems like the biggest benefit would be that cost, right? I mean, I would ask you what you love the most about Ecuador and it’s probably, I’m guessing, it’s going to be largely that cost of living. Is there anything that’s overlooked? Because I think that’s the number one thing people think. I think, “Well, it’s the climate. I get a better climate and we also get a lower cost of living.” Is there any other reason that’s often overlooked for moving abroad or one of the biggest benefits you experienced that maybe you didn’t expect?
Keith Paul: Well, healthcare is a big deal. I think that one of the hardest things for an American to retire early in the US is health care. It’s so expensive that I think you’re going to pay over $1,000 a person to have health care if you’re younger and not able to get Medicare yet. But here, healthcare is great. Many of the doctors here trained in the United States.
Tina Paul: Or in Europe. And you can have insurance, but if you don’t have insurance, you can pay out-of-pocket and you could be in the hospital for three, four weeks, and it would not be catastrophic like it would be in the US.
Keith Paul: Yeah. Ecuador has a government health insurance policy that you can get for $73 a month and it covers pre-existing conditions. If you don’t have any preexisting conditions, you could go with the private healthcare, maybe for like about $120 a month. So, it’s so much cheaper than the US. Right now, if we wanted to go to a doctor, it’s about $25, $30 for a doctor’s visit.
Tina Paul: And he’s going to give you his cell phone number the minute you get there because he wants you to call. That’s just the way doctors work here. You call the doctor directly if there’s any problems, any questions, and that amount of money will cover any follow-ups having to do with that. So, if he has you come back two or three more times, it’s all covered.
Casey Weade: Now, what if you had a major issue, a critical illness now and you needed a serious surgery, whatever that might be, would you need to come back to the US? Would you get it done there? Do you have the appropriate coverage to avoid any catastrophic costs?
Keith Paul: Yeah. No, we would get it done here. You don’t need to come back. We have great hospitals and great doctors. We had a friend who just had surgery and it went very, very well. You know, like I could give you an example of how much surgery costs out-of-pocket.
Tina Paul: Like an umbilical hernia half a day in the hospital, outpatient kind of surgery $1,000, including test surgery, drugs, everything.
Keith Paul: X-rays.
Tina Paul: Yeah. You know, drugs to take home.
Casey Weade: Sure. That seems like that would probably be one of the biggest concerns. I think we’ve kind of have been brainwashed at the best health cares in the US. The best health care is in the US. You know, people come from all over the world to get their procedures done here in the US, but it doesn’t sound like maybe that’s your perspective.
Tina Paul: No, and probably something else I should say because this will really hit home to people. An MRI here is between $75 and $80.
Keith Paul: Whereas…
Tina Paul: Thousands.
Keith Paul: Thousands in the United States.
Tina Paul: Yeah. Your co-pay is going to be more than that.
Keith Paul: So, yeah, I mean, people are kind of brainwashed to think the US has the best health care but we have very good doctors here and like I say, many of them trained in the US or in Europe with great outcomes. And we know many expats had surgery here with no problem. There also tends to be a lot of people here who come here for the affordable health care who may have cancer and do undergo their cancer treatments here. That’s very common.
Casey Weade: Wow.
Tina Paul: Even dental tourism is becoming very common here because dentistry is a lot less expensive. So, even with the cost of a flight, you can save so much money on dentistry here.
Casey Weade: Yeah. My dad’s been flying to Mexico to get his dental work done and he tells everybody about how great it is. Yeah, that’s not just Ecuador.
Keith Paul: No, you’re right. A lot of countries. A crown here cost $250, right? And then the dentist we go to he actually makes it right there on-site with this new…
Tina Paul: 3D printer.
Keith Paul: 3D printer he has. I mean, so you’re like four hours later, you have your crown made.
Tina Paul: So, it’s the latest technology. And you wonder, well, if somebody said to me, “Well, why are these doctors not practicing in the US where they can make a lot more money?” But the people here don’t value money as much as they value family. And you get a different lifestyle here. Almost everybody goes home for two hours every day for lunch, the whole family. The kids come home, mom and dad come home. Yeah.
Casey Weade: I can’t imagine. I typically don’t get lunch at all.
Tina Paul: We know.
Keith Paul: We know, right?
Casey Weade: I don’t have the time. Yeah. It just seems like, well, that’s going to take too much time. I don’t think I’m going to do that today. We’ll skip. We’ll have dinner here this evening. Yeah. We’ve had some questions about language. You know, I think one of the scariest things about going to see a physician for many is that they don’t speak the language of the physician, even if it’s English. It doesn’t even sound like English. So, we’re trying to really translate all this medical speak into something we can actually understand and grasp. And I think that leads to a question we had from another one of our subscribers, John Mueller. He said that, “Did you do extensive vacation to Ecuador before making the move?” I think you’ve answered that. “What research and preparation did you do before the move?” But then he asked about the language barrier. “Was there a language barrier?” And you said that you chose a Latin country because you kind of spoke a little bit of Spanish. Do you think that is a prerequisite?
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Tina Paul: No.
Keith Paul: Yeah. You can get by without speaking Spanish.
Tina Paul: We have friends who speak nada, no Spanish.
Keith Paul: But if you could just learn a little, you would have such a better quality of life here if you just learn a little and there’s so many venues here to learn Spanish. You know, we took two different courses of Spanish when we got here.
Tina Paul: Yeah, because we only had, we knew how to pronounce all the letters. We probably knew a few phrases, all the numbers, and a few foods and that was it. But that was enough to get us started. So, while you don’t have to, if you did a little bit, you’d get such a better quality of life here. And for those that don’t want to learn at all, we have people here that they’re called facilitators. So, you could hire a facilitator to go with you to a doctor’s appointment, to go with you to get your cable installed, who speaks Spanish and English, and they typically charge $10 an hour. So, we know people that use facilitators all the time to do things like that. So, there’s always options for when you really actually do need to have somebody who can speak Spanish.
Casey Weade: Yeah. And not speaking the language can make you feel a little insecure and maybe that you’re not in a safe environment. I don’t want things that people would poke fun at that as, “Well, you’re going to go into Mexico. They’re going to put you under. How do you know what they’re going to do once they put you under?” You know, is it safe? And that’s one of the concerns. I mean, we go to Mexico every year. People say you’re crazy for going to Mexico. You shouldn’t go there. We’ll go visit Acapulco and it’s on the do-not-fly list. So, what are your thoughts about the safety and security of traveling outside the US, specifically Ecuador, but also other countries that you’ve evaluated?
Tina Paul: You know, well, as far as Ecuador, I feel it’s safer than the US. This, people agree. It’s like the 40s and 50s in the United States as far as safety.
Keith Paul: I mean, yeah, little kids will go on a public bus to school all by themselves. We don’t have yet to worry about your kid walking down the street, child nappers and all that.
Tina Paul: Yeah. We never have to hear about that kind of crime at all. Now, people stealing cell phones or grabbing your purse, of course, that’s going to happen anywhere in any country but that’s the extent of our bad crimes here.
Keith Paul: Yeah. Then as far as traveling in general, you know, we don’t go to countries that are obviously not safe, especially for Americans that are in the news that you hear about but there are just so many countries out there and people just got to…
Tina Paul: There’s no need to go to those countries.
Keith Paul: Yeah. There’s so many other countries and in all of our travel, we have never felt unsafe, never been in a predicament where we’re like that. You just got to get over that and don’t worry about what you see on TV because the news tends to want to just highlight the bad things and sensationalize that but it’s there’s so good at – there’s so much to see and it’s so safe.
Tina Paul: You know, most people are just like we are. They love their kids, they love their wife or their husband and that’s people all over the world, whether it’s India or Japan or here, you know, Slovenia. There are people it seems like what binds us as people are the same things everywhere. That’s what we learn.
Casey Weade: Yeah. Well, and dad will always say, “Well, you don’t go to south side of Chicago and walk around at night in the alleyway,” right?
Tina Paul: Exactly.
Keith Paul: Exactly. Although, I don’t think we’ve encountered any place where we can’t walk here in Cuenca at night.
Casey Weade: Really?
Tina Paul: Sure. In other countries, we don’t go off at night in the dark by ourselves down the street that we don’t know. That’s just common sense. You don’t want to take a chance.
Casey Weade: Well, one of those concerns for many is, well, how does citizenship work? And I was curious about that. Here in the US, it’s like, well, do you have to go back to the US or kind of like we do here? You know, you have to go back to your home country and then come back here? What are the rules about citizenship? And is Ecuador unique in that respect?
Keith Paul: Yes. So just like most countries, Ecuador allows you to come in as a tourist for 90 days on a visa, right? And that’s free. You just come in. You can stay up to 90 days. But we are not citizens. We are residents. We are permanent residents. So, that’s a process you go through. We used a lawyer to help us do it because it made it so much easier. And we actually did it before we even got here. So, we went through the whole process while we lived in the US where everything, all the paperwork was in and everything was ready. We just went to the consulate in Los Angeles and got our passports set up with our visas in it. So, when we got here in Ecuador, we were already permanent residents.
Tina Paul: And you don’t give up your citizenship in the United States. So, United States we can be dual citizens. We can be a citizen of Ecuador and Slovenia.
Keith Paul: Yeah, but again, we’re not citizens. We’re permanent residents. Now, Ecuador has after if you lived here for three years as a permanent residence, you can actually apply to be a citizen. So, we’re actually eligible now to go and take the citizenship tests and go through all that paperwork and we can be a citizen too. We’d have two passports.
Casey Weade: Okay. Now…
Keith Paul: Yeah. You know – sorry. Go ahead.
Casey Weade: Well, no, go ahead but, well, I was just going to say I know you have a couple of children and they’re big international travelers as well it sounds like and one of the fears that people have as well, if I go become a permanent resident in another country, how am I ever going to see my kids? Or how am I going to spend time with grandkids? What about my closest friends and family? They’re all right here and I get to see them all the time. Do you feel isolated from your friends, family? And how do you overcome that?
Tina Paul: So, one of our kids now lives with us. So, our oldest son was living, he went and lived one year in India, five years in China, six months in Thailand, and he got a little homesick. That was most of his adult life. So, he came to visit. He liked it here and he stayed. So, right now he actually lives with us. He watches our dogs when we’re traveling because last year, we were gone six months out of the year.
Keith Paul: Yes. He watches the house and the dogs for us and he’s actually now also a permanent resident too. He applied it.
Tina Paul: Now, our daughter still lives in California and I do miss her but we talk whether it’s text or on the phone every single day.
Casey Weade: Really?
Keith Paul: If you think about it when we live in California and my mom lived in Florida, that is the same flight to go see her as it is now for me to be in an Ecuador and flying to Florida. It’s a four-and-a-half-hour flight to Florida. It was roughly the same going from California to Florida. So, it’s no different. We live, you know, most families today live all over the country. Rarely do you find families and their kids living in the same city. So, it’s not really that bad. And with the advent of internet, I got fiber optic 25 meg download internet, high-speed internet. We can Skype just like we’re doing now with our family. I was telling your producer earlier that I actually was the godfather of my sister’s baby, but I couldn’t attend but the priest actually let her hold the phone up when I was FaceTiming her. And so, I was on FaceTime through the whole process of being through her baptism.
Casey Weade: I wonder if that’s another one of those important aspects of someone or qualities of someone that’s going to do this as they have to be pretty comfortable with technology. You have a technology background, Keith. That probably helped you.
Tina Paul: It helps because I know other expats here who have grandchildren and one of my friends every Wednesday at 5:30 our time, they call and talk to the grandkids on Skype like this, so they see them, they show them all their new toys or whatever because they’re little kids. And I think that really helps them to stay close to their family.
Casey Weade: Sure. Yeah. I think that’s a really important thing. It’s such a neat opportunity that we have today. I think the financial world is kind of evolving in that direction, where we’re starting to work with people all over the country, hopefully all over the world eventually if we get the regulations worked out. It’s pretty amazing that we can sit here and have this conversation like you were sitting in the office or sitting in our living room.
Keith Paul: Exactly.
Casey Weade: I mean, we have to have a discussion about the finances. This is kind of a financial show. So, let’s talk a little bit about retirement finances, expenses. I think budget’s probably a good place to start. How did you build a retirement budget? I think, Keith, you’re kind of the spreadsheet guy I’m thinking.
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: And so, I’m guessing you had a method to figuring out what your expenses might be, and why this was a better deal than staying in the US.
Keith Paul: Yeah. Well, I mean, it was a financial decision. We did all the math and we looked at how much savings we had. And, of course, like I said, I wanted to wait until I was 55 to take advantage of my 401(k) that I had, which I actually never even touched for the first two years we lived here that was able to, heck, when we left, I sold my car and selling my car allowed me to live here for one whole year just by the money I got from selling my car.
Casey Weade: You know, how much was the car worth? Was it $100,000 car or $10,000?
Tina Paul: No, no.
Keith Paul: It was a Jeep Grand Cherokee. I think I got like $25,000 for it, right?
Casey Weade: Okay. And that covered all of your expenses for the first 12 months?
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Tina Paul: Oh, yeah.
Keith Paul: Yeah. And, look, we live in a very kind of a high cost of living here. I mean, we live at a higher standard than we really have to.
Tina Paul: Yeah, a lot of people live on like half of what we live on here.
Keith Paul: Yeah. I mean, the house we’re living in now is the biggest house we ever lived in our entire life, believe it or not.
Casey Weade: How many square feet are we in?
Keith Paul: It’s 4,600 square feet.
Tina Paul: Six bathrooms.
Casey Weade: Wow.
Keith Paul: Yeah. I mean, you know, but again, my son has pretty much the entire upstairs. He has a living room up there, his office is up there, he has everything. We don’t even really even go up there.
Casey Weade: And you rent this home correct?
Keith Paul: Yeah, we rent it. We rent it. So, we don’t want to be encumbered in case we want to live somewhere else in another country that we decide to.
Casey Weade: Are there reasons other than financial reasons to not buy a home in another country?
Keith Paul: No. Our good friends actually own a home here.
Tina Paul: We only know about Ecuador as far as purchasing homes in that but I would say it’s 50/50, people rent or people buy.
Keith Paul: Yeah. We just want to be able to pick up and go if we find another country we want to live in through our travels. We just didn’t want to be stuck here with the house.
Casey Weade: And you’re in Pasadena previously, California? What was your home like there and the cost there compared to the cost you have today?
Keith Paul: Well, we’re actually renting the home there. It was like a 1,800 square foot home. That was a great location. It was in the foothills of the mountain.
Tina Paul: But for $4,000 a month.
Keith Paul: Of $3,600 a month that we’re paying, right?
Tina Paul: Yeah. We did not have a bathroom in the master bedroom. We didn’t have any walk-in closets. It was, what was it, two-bedroom?
Keith Paul: Yeah. Two-bedroom.
Tina Paul: Yeah. Two-bedroom, two-bath home or three-bedroom. I’m sorry. Three-bedroom, two-bath home. It was small. But it was in California like he said, the foothills of the mountains. It was a beautiful location.
Keith Paul: But it was California so things were expensive there.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Keith Paul: And now we come here. We have this house and we pay $1,000 a month for this place.
Casey Weade: Okay. And that’s unusually high. You’ve kind of got a mansion there.
Keith Paul: Yeah. We do.
Tina Paul: Yeah. We do.
Keith Paul: You could easily live here in a nice two-bedroom or a three-bedroom apartment for say $400 to $600 a month.
Tina Paul: Seven, yeah.
Keith Paul: Maybe even seven.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Keith Paul: All depends on location.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: I hate to make little segues like this but, as a dad, I’ve got a two-year-old and a four-year-old and this is starting to sound like a pretty appealing concept to go ahead and move to Ecuador. But one of the questions would be, what about education? Would we be able to find the same quality of education if we were raising a family in another country?
Tina Paul: So, there’s an international baccalaureate school here in Cuenca, which you have in the United States. You might not know about them, but the education is the same worldwide and all worldwide they’re in English, but you can also attend a great public or private schools here. And that’s the largest growing segment of the expanse. We see our people with children, they want their kids, the kids don’t speak any Spanish, but they plop them into school and by the end of the year, they’re fluent in Spanish.
Keith Paul: Yeah. I mean, that’s a big deal.
Tina Paul: Yeah, that’s a very big deal.
Keith Paul: They come here. Some of them just come here for a couple of years because they want to get their kids fluent in Spanish and young kids, that’s the best time to learn a second language.
Casey Weade: And it’s a different type of education too. It’s not just schooling education, but you’re getting educated regarding different cultures and traveling at the same time.
Tina Paul: Yeah. Yes.
Keith Paul: Absolutely, yes.
Casey Weade: So, if we’re going to build a budget, I can just see someone sitting there going, “Okay, I’m ready to do this.” However, yes, okay, health care is an expense, housing is an expense. Do you have any resources that you might use if you’re trying to build a budget just to make sure you crossed off everything that you needed to consider?
Keith Paul: No, actually. We don’t have any resources but I know there are things online that you can look up like the cost of living in Ecuador where they have the typical what it costs for groceries. I’ll give you an example. We pay like $23 a month for our cell phone. We pay about $50 a month for electricity. We pay…
Tina Paul: $6 for gas.
Keith Paul: $6 for gas and gas is used for our hot water a month. Groceries. I mean, these are some examples of groceries like especially…
Tina Paul: Probably $100 a week maybe. Yeah. But like I said, we are not living cheap and then our wine bill.
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: Well, we’ll get to that wine bill here in a little bit.
Keith Paul: Yeah. It’s probably our biggest expense.
Tina Paul: Yeah. Here in Ecuador.
Keith Paul: But other than that, then again, you can get the government health insurance for $73 or private between $100, $120 depending on how old you are.
Tina Paul: Something else that at least where we live because we live in a city. The city is very walkable. A taxi across town is $1.50. You can get a private driver for an hour for $8 to $10 in their car to drive you around if you needed it. So, we do not own a car. We try to walk everywhere because it’s so good for you. You know, I’m a naturopathic doctor. So, walking is one of the best things you can possibly do for yourself.
Keith Paul: Yeah. I mean, somebody could easily live here for under $1,000 a month.
Casey Weade: That’s amazing.
Keith Paul: Go easy and absolutely even $800 a month.
Casey Weade: I think the only…
Keith Paul: We know people go live here on $600 a month.
Tina Paul: Yeah. But they could never go back to, you know, $400, $500, $600. They really don’t have extra money to travel back to the US. Which, you know, I would not like to be a net. But I wonder how would somebody live in the US on $600 a month?
Casey Weade: Sure. Well, they couldn’t. They wouldn’t even scrape by.
Keith Paul: I know this one person we know. That’s what they get for Social Security. And I’m like, “Wow.”
Tina Paul: And it’s all they have.
Keith Paul: I don’t understand how they could ever where they would live in the US for $600 a month.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: Yeah. What are some of those expenses that maybe went up that may be costing you a little bit more, that were outliers where it’s everything cheaper?
Keith Paul: Yeah, there’s only one thing that I can think of that cost more, and it’s wine.
Casey Weade: That’s that one thing.
Tina Paul: We were paying originally $5 – oh, you’re saying more here.
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Tina Paul: Oh, yeah, no, everything is less.
Keith Paul: Everything is less here. The only reason – we kid about wine, but we are big wine drinkers. We like wine coming from California. But Ecuador really wants you to buy stuff in Ecuador, right? So, the import taxes are high and so that’s what turns like we can’t get US wine here. They don’t import that here. And while Chile and Argentina make great wine, you know, you put the taxes on it, you’re paying like double the price for a bottle of wine here.
Casey Weade: So, I’m thinking you made this transition into kind of a second act. I know you’re bloggers. You’ve been on television before. What’s the show that you’re on, HGTV?
Tina Paul: House Hunters International.
Casey Weade: Yeah. You’ve got a really popular blog. And I’m just saying is that generating the income you need to cover all of your expenses or are you utilizing your investments and savings?
Keith Paul: Yeah. So, the blog was totally separate. We did not need that to come here and live the lifestyle. Now, what we said though, was we probably wouldn’t travel as much as we’re traveling today without the blog. I mean, that was something we just decided to do. We had no idea it was going to take off like it did.
Tina Paul: Right. So, the blog pays for our travel and we are not budget travelers. We like to stay in nice hotels or boutique hotels when we travel. If we’re going to cruise or something, we’re not taking the budget cruise. We’re going to get the bigger room, maybe a suite. Yeah, so it affords us to travel six months last year.
Keith Paul: Yeah. So, that’s what the blog does. It helps offset our travel expenses. We don’t use anything from the blog just in our normal living expenses. That’s just our savings and our retirement, my 401(k).
Casey Weade: And this gives you a sense of purpose as well? You seemed to have fun doing these interviews.
Keith Paul: Yeah. It’s kind of funny you said that because we’ve been asked that question before, “Because you’re retired, do you have a lack of purpose?” So, even if we didn’t have the blog, we have a great life here. I mean, when we moved here, we learned to play bridge. Okay.
Tina Paul: Bridge is so difficult and I love it because it’s so difficult.
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: Keith’s quite the artist too.
Keith Paul: Yeah. I took up art lessons. I never painted or drew my entire life. I took lessons from a Peruvian artist who’s very well-known who lives here in town. And so, now I’m in watercolors. I paint. We have a social life that a guy when we first got here was like, “Man, we need to like, I need some time off.” It’s like, we’re just too busy.
Tina Paul: We’re doing something every day of the week.
Keith Paul: Oh my God, if it’s not art openings, some music venue, just people’s houses and parties.
Tina Paul: House parties.
Keith Paul: Us having parties, I mean, it was a lot. I mean, it still is but now we have the excuse we need to work on the blogs so we can’t go do that.
Casey Weade: Just seems like a really friendly culture.
Keith Paul: Oh my God, yeah. And we have both Ecuadorian and American friends. We met a lot of Ecuadorians here. Many who’ve lived in the United States in their previous life and came back here to live a simpler life.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: Sure. My dad was down and lives in Acapulco for one to two months out of the year and he is busier with social things going on than he is here in the US. It just seems like every so phrase, always gets invited to a different party. He’s always telling me about it and says…
Tina Paul: That’s the Latin culture. You know, they’re real people-people. You know, they enjoy being with people. Some people will say they’re very loud and we hear fireworks all the time here but it’s great. People are enjoying life here.
Keith Paul: Yeah. And, you know, with the blog, we’re doing the blog, but it’s work. Trust me. It’s a lot of work for us to do, but it’s fine. So, our motto is kind of like as long as it still remains to be fun, we’ll keep doing it. But the day it becomes a real job and we’re like, “Oh my god, we got to write another article.”
Tina Paul: We have to fly where.
Keith Paul: Yeah. That might be the day we stopped doing it but right now it’s fun. We enjoy it. We enjoy the travel. We enjoy the writing, putting together the videos and all that and doing interviews with people like you.
Casey Weade: How has it affected your marriage, you know, doing these things together? Have you always worked together on different projects or worked together in your working life? Is this a new thing for you?
Keith Paul: No.
Tina Paul: It was new for us being together 24 hours a day and we did not work together in our working life. He helped a lot with my practice backend stuff.
Keith Paul: The website.
Tina Paul: Yeah. But you were off 60 hours a week.
Keith Paul: In my job. Yeah.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Keith Paul: But you know, it’s funny. We’ve met people who said they retired and couldn’t stand being with their spouse so much.
Tina Paul: We met somebody who was an Uber driver just to get away 20 hours a week. Yeah.
Keith Paul: So, yeah, but we’ve not had that problem. But you could. I mean, but again, you just think of other things you could do and you could go off and, you know, I was doing art lessons so I was away from her then, and she goes off and plays bridge and she plays competitive bridge now. I just play social bridge. So, she goes off and does that and I have my alone time.
Tina Paul: And I can be gone. If I did it three days a week, I’m gone five hours each day.
Casey Weade: That’s 60 hours.
Keith Paul: I know. But it is something to think about because we’ve met people but if you think that’s a problem, there’s so many other things. You could do hobbies and other places you can go and things you can join but you can still have the alone time if you need it.
Tina Paul: You know, we thought we wanted to downsize so we moved into an apartment here that was like 1,200 square feet.
Keith Paul: Yeah. And that’s the one that’s on the House Hunters International show.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: That was the one I was aware of.
Tina Paul: Yeah. Even before my son came to live with us, we already knew it was too small for us being together all the time. You know, if you wanted to watch a movie and I didn’t want to hear it, there’s no place to go at 1,200 square foot apartment and not hear it. And so, this house is so much better.
Casey Weade: I know you’re loving it there now. Costs are very low for you today. And along that cost thing, does that change for you someday? One of the things that people have a big concern with all the time with folks we’re working with is long-term care. Now, you’ve talked about those basic health care expenses. What about nursing home care? Home health care? Assisted living? Is that something that you’ll stay there for? Do you need to come back to the US?
Keith Paul: Well, until we’re old enough for Medicare, you know, once we can get Medicare then we have different options in the US, right?
Tina Paul: That’ll be 65?
Keith Paul: Yeah, but prior to that, I mean, like right now, believe it or not, nursing homes are not big here. I mean, I know of just one.
Casey Weade: Live with the family there, right?
Keith Paul: Exactly.
Tina Paul: Exactly.
Keith Paul: Latin America doesn’t abandon their elderly like we do in the US.
Tina Paul: So, there is one here, but it’s for people who have no family.
Keith Paul: It’s rare but yes.
Tina Paul: It’s rare, but there are some people like that. And so, about 40 years ago, one of our friends’ moms said, “I met this blah, blah, blah, and they have no family and he became ill and needed care.” And so, they started a nursing home here in Cuenca but it really is only for people who do not have family or means.
Keith Paul: Yeah. But here’s another option. You can actually hire a full-time nurse for $400 a month. So, I mean because I said If my mom gets to the place where she can’t take care of herself, I could have her come live here and for $400 a month I could have a nurse come in the house full time.
Casey Weade: That sounds way better.
Keith Paul: I think that’s like two days in some nice nurse in the United States, right?
Casey Weade: Yeah. $7,000 to $10,000 a month in the US. I mean, that’s amazing. I think I’ve got my new healthcare strategy that I can propose to.
Keith Paul: There you go.
Tina Paul: The other thing is to take care of yourself as early as possible so we exercise right, we eat right. We don’t have the stress that we had when we were working. I didn’t have a lot of stress, but Keith certainly did. So, I think all of that stacks the deck in your favor for a healthy life as you age.
Keith Paul: Yeah. And I think you’ll talk most expats, the first thing they say they do after they’ve been here years, they’ve lost weight.
Tina Paul: About an average of 30 or 40 pounds.
Keith Paul: Yeah because they’re just moving more. They’re walking. They’re eating healthier. You know, they’re not eating all the junk food.
Casey Weade: Going to McDonald’s and Arby’s and Burger King.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Keith Paul: Exactly.
Casey Weade: Well, you retired early. Let’s make a transition over to just what it takes to retire early. You retired at 55. So, what do you think is the number one contributor to your ability to retire early? Is it just making this move? If that is it, what’s number two?
Tina Paul: Well, you know what, I think the other thing was at a certain point, we started to pay ourselves before we ever saw the money coming in, right? That’s a big thing, you know, saving money before you learn to live on it. You know, I think that was important. So, we did have money saved because we can’t collect Social Security or anything right now.
Keith Paul: Yeah. But, I mean, the number one thing was moving abroad.
Tina Paul: Oh, yeah.
Keith Paul: Because we would have never been able to retire early and live in California unless we lived in a – I don’t, maybe…
Tina Paul: I don’t think anywhere.
Keith Paul: I don’t think anywhere. We probably could live in…
Tina Paul: And we had great jobs.
Keith Paul: Yeah. So, moving abroad was really the number one and probably number two was just really focusing on the savings and the investment. You know, I got a very good return on my investments over the years and especially probably the last nine years of my life, the market was good, and that really helped boost us up quickly.
Casey Weade: So, to make sure this could be released, some people could be going back and listening to this at another time. So, what is the year that you retired? How long have you been living this lifestyle?
Tina Paul: So, we retired on January of 2016 and it’s 2019, September right now of 2019.
Casey Weade: So, it’s been about three years.
Keith Paul: Yeah. So, we moved in here almost four years.
Casey Weade: All right. Now, one of the blog posts you had was Effective Habits of People Who Retired Early and I wondered, you talked about saving in your 401(k) or your typical retirement accounts. That’s why you talked about, “Well, I get to 55 and then separation from service, I can avoid that 10% penalty tax,” but you also said it’s important to save outside of age-restricted retirement accounts. So, what’s important about not just piling everything into your 401(k)?
Keith Paul: Well, because you can’t get it out without taking a penalty. Right? If you’re too young, I mean, we know people that retired at 45. So, a 401(k) is not going to do them much good without taking that big 10% yet. So, there’s other ways. You know, so you look at just general savings.
Tina Paul: We have people who will come to us and say, “We want to be you,” or millennials, “I want to work as few years as possible and then retire.” And that’s got to be the key. You know, you have to have money that you can get until you’re old enough to get your other money.
Keith Paul: Yeah. Some we didn’t mention. Something that’s great about Ecuador. You’re not going to believe this, but we actually have money in a CD here in Ecuador. And when we did this three years ago, we moved here, the interest rate we got in that CD was 10%. Right now, I get 9% on that right now. So, every month, I get 9%. Every monthly, they pay me my interest and they put it into my Ecuadorian savings account. We pull that money out to offset our living expenses from that CD.
Casey Weade: With higher return comes more risk. Are you concerned about any risks there? What are the risks?
Keith Paul: That is a normal return. That is not a higher return for Ecuador. It is like A+ rated I won’t call it bank. It’s actually a co-op like a credit union in the United States.
Tina Paul: Credit union, yeah.
Keith Paul: This was a very highly rated credit union here. It survived all the banking problems that happened here in Ecuador in the early 90s. It’s insured to a certain amount of money. It’s insured by, you know, sort of like the FDIC, they have something here in Ecuador like that, too.
Tina Paul: And so, that’s why we don’t let our money grow in that account. First of all, we had a savings account and it was our money sitting in our American savings account earning nothing, or almost very, you know, half a percent or something.
Casey Weade: 1% to 2% today, yeah.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Keith Paul: It was the easy liquidated type part of our savings.
Tina Paul: Yeah. So, now it makes money and we just go to the bank and actually pull out cash once a month because they move it over. We don’t let it build up because we don’t want to go above what’s insured just to be safe.
Casey Weade: Sure. Well, that’s one of the things I really liked. There’s this and another thing you said in your blog post that I really liked because one of the principles my dad always taught me. You know, when I first started saving in a Roth IRA, you know, I said, “Dad, I maxed out my Roth this year,” and he’s going, “Don’t do that. Don’t put everything in your retirement accounts. Make sure you have some flexibility.” And I think there’s two reasons for that. One is, as you’ve retired early, that gave you additional funds that you can access without a penalty. I think the even bigger reason is that, you know, most of the wealthiest individuals that I meet, the wealthiest Americans or the wealthiest people around the world, they didn’t make their money in the stock market. You know, they made it on their own. They use those after-tax dollars, those flexible dollars to take advantage of business opportunities, rental properties, and things they maybe had more control over or that provided a bigger rate of return.
Some people think that their home is that piece of real estate that’s going to be a savings account for them in retirement and give them a decent return over the long run. I think this has been a lot of people have said, “Well, you need to go out and buy yourself a home. It’s going to be a great investment tool. You’re going to save money.” And one of your blog posts which was in that same place, Effective Habits of People Who Retire Early, you said that homes were not a good investment for you. Can you tell us that story?
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Tina Paul: They had been a good investment for us up until 2008.
Keith Paul: 2008. Yeah, I actually lost my job. We were living in Florida and I ended up taking a job in Texas for a year but we had to sell our house because we had to move. And in 2008, 2009 the whole market just tanked.
Tina Paul: We were in Florida at the time so we were – our house started up here and you know the price, we kept on lowering the price but the market kept tanking and tanking.
Keith Paul: So, we didn’t actually live together for a year. I was working in Texas and she was still trying to sell the house. And it was just because it was the market. You just don’t know. We were actually forced to sell our house at pretty much what we bought it for…
Tina Paul: Less than what we bought it for. It was about 10 years.
Keith Paul: Yeah, maybe we had it for 10 years but, again, we had to sell it because we wanted to live together again, right? And it was just a bad market and we didn’t make any money on the house. So, while we had plenty of equity in it and it was building, building, but it was a time that we sold it and had to sell it.
Tina Paul: We actually, you know, we were paying, doing all the right things so we paid an extra house payment every year because we were trying to pay it down early. We lost all of that money. And most of the equity money we had already owned like that was like our fifth or sixth house. We moved up every time. So, look, I don’t want to advocate saying that it’s not a good investment because I think it is but it’s not 100%.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: Well, I think there’s a difference between residential real estate, your primary residence and then a rental property. You buy your home, you’ve got to realize it’s going to be an expense, right? Especially if you want to enjoy it, you want to spend money on different things. You’ve got utilities. You’ve got you’ve got bills. You got taxes, insurance, and it’s not necessarily going to be much more than maybe a glorified savings account at most. But rental properties, I think that can make a lot of sense.
Keith Paul: Absolutely. We know people that live here and are living strictly on their rental income they get from their homes in the US.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Keith Paul: I mean, that’s a great thing. You know, also we know people who had lived in California for many, many, many years and you know what the price in California just skyrocketed. They sold their house, and now they can just live here on the money they made from selling their house.
Tina Paul: We know somebody who didn’t have any retirement, but he lived in San Francisco for 24 years in the exact same home and they cleared like $2 million.
Casey Weade: Wow. I’ve seen some studies here recently that have shown that it can be a net positive if you’re actually renting versus owning a home today and utilizing that extra savings and investing it but that’s just because we’re not in the 90s anymore. We haven’t seen prices skyrocket like we saw back through the 80s and the 90s. So, well, let’s make a final transition here as we wrap up and just some travel tips and discussions. I know you got some good insight into these things. You do so many trips from this European trip to what you did across the US and India. What is your trip planning process? I always keep going back to my dad because he just loves to travel and dad always says, “It’s not the trip that’s the most fun.” He loves the planning part.
Keith Paul: Yeah. Boy, and for us, it’s a lot of planning.
Tina Paul: So, you know, one thing I would recommend and this is something we had to learn the hard way, but if it’s out of the country, we arrived two days before anything, two days before we want to begin anything, two days before the first tour or cruise or whatever it is. If it’s in the US we come at least one day early. And the reason is because you just don’t always get there when you want to.
Keith Paul: Yeah. I mean, air travel today is not like in the past. I mean, there’s a good chance your flight’s going to be delayed. You’re going to get canceled. You’re going to miss your connection. Then also, it’s a great way to get accustomed to the time zone change too if you’re traveling overseas. A day to adjust is a great thing so that’s really important for us. I mean, we actually missed a cruise because the airline canceled the flight and we didn’t allow for an extra day or two.
Tina Paul: And we’d already been on two flights. This was our third flight. We were going from Quito to Houston, and they just canceled it while we were in the air. As soon as we landed, we got the message, “Your flights been canceled.”
Casey Weade: The connecting?
Tina Paul: Yeah, the connecting flight.
Keith Paul: So, yeah, so we like to say arrive early is one of the best things from planning.
Tina Paul: Yes.
Keith Paul: And then, you know, we look at the experience of traveling is really being valuable and you’ll see a lot of our post. We talk about private tours but we’ve done both, group tours and private tours, but more like a private tour. You get so much more out of that experience in a private tour than you ever would in a group tour. So, we really advocate spending the extra money and doing private tours.
Casey Weade: So, even as much as you have traveled, you like using tours and private tours, group tours. You like utilizing someone’s going to organize a trip for you?
Tina Paul: Well, no, we’re talking like in a city, a tour guide that takes you around or like in Slovenia, we wanted to go to wine country so we had a private tour guide who took us two-and-a-half hours from our hotel to the wine country and she knew everyone, she could set up the right, you know.
Keith Paul: If there’s ever a language problem, you got a tour guide to do that for you.
Tina Paul: Oh, yeah because we don’t speak any Slovenia.
Keith Paul: But as far as actually, you know, setting up, we actually do the research on our own to figure out where we want to go. We use services like TripAdvisor, let’s say, to find how people rate the different tours and tour guides and that sort of thing. We asked a lot of questions of people that we connect with another country. So, yeah, that’s what we do.
Tina Paul: We’re actually personal friends with some of the tour guides we have been on tours with. We have one when we were in Croatia, Keith’s maternal great grandparents were from Croatia and so we were there and we wanted to go to the small city where they were from and she took us there. It was a long story. We had somebody else who was supposed to take us and she canceled last minute.
Keith Paul: Yeah, but this lady took us there, but I was telling her stories about my childhood. I said, “I remember my grandma made this,” we call it a nut roll. It was from Croatia. I said we called it Pull the Pizza. Right?
Tina Paul: Yeah, Pull the Pizza.
Keith Paul: And she’s like, “Oh, I know what that is. But we call it something different here in this part of Croatia,” and long story short, when we went to that, she took us to this little city in south or…
Tina Paul: Couple of 100 people probably.
Keith Paul: Yeah. Where my family was from and we got there and we were met by the tourism person and historian and she had told him the story about me. And they actually knew what Pull the Pizza was and they baked me a Pull the Pizza. When got there…
Tina Paul: Three o’clock in the morning they got up to have it made so I said 10 AM.
Keith Paul: Yeah. I mean, it was just like so cool. It’s like, “Oh my God, this is just like my grandmother made,” and it was very regional what they called it. It was because our tour guide told them about this story and they did this for me. I mean, it was so cool. Probably if you read the post, you probably saw the picture of me standing there with these two ladies.
Casey Weade: I did. Yeah. So, that’s one of your big proponents of finding a guide.
Keith Paul: Yeah. You just get so much more out of really seeing the country and…
Tina Paul: You make friends.
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Tina Paul: They’re new friends.
Casey Weade: Whenever we travel internationally, we try to stay at Airbnbs or somebody’s home, you know, that’s right in the thick of the culture so that we can have a built-in tour guide.
Keith Paul: Yeah. That’s helpful. That’s great. Absolutely.
Casey Weade: Yeah. One of the things that I wonder if you do as you’re doing some of this international travel is part of the planning process to research, medical insurance and travel medical insurance and how your expenses might be effective.
Keith Paul: We always get a travel, medical travel insurance policy.
Tina Paul: And that includes when we return to the US.
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Tina Paul: We’re going to be back in the US in a week. We will have insurance for that whole time we’re there
Keith Paul: Yeah. Because the US is one place you don’t want to be without insurance because an accident there could bankrupt us, right?
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Keith Paul: So, yeah, but anyplace we travel, we take a travel policy out and I talked about in my website. I have two different companies that I use, exclusively for travel. And it’s the medical part. I don’t worry about trip interruption, insurance and that, and lost luggage. I don’t worry about that kind of insurance because that’s covered with our Visa card that we use.
Tina Paul: And some American Express cover it too.
Keith Paul: American Express?
Tina Paul: You know, that trip interruption, insurance, lost package. Yeah.
Keith Paul: Yeah. So, we handle that with our credit card and the only thing we get is medical insurance.
Tina Paul: Right.
Casey Weade: Great. Well, that’s good information because I think a lot of us don’t know about travel medical insurance and the problems that you can have. Medicare, for instance, they’re not going to cover you and…
Keith Paul: Exactly.
Casey Weade: Those are doing international travel, I think it’s really important to have some travel medical insurance.
Keith Paul: Yeah. You need to check because when I was working, my actual medical insurance didn’t cover me when I was traveling, but not all do so you really need to check into that.
Tina Paul: And some countries that you go to, you may need to be airlifted to another country. You know, I mean there are…
Keith Paul: Or back to your home country.
Tina Paul: Or back to your home country. You know, we happen to live in Ecuador, where there’s great health care, but not all countries, you know, if you need surgery or something are the best place to be, so.
Casey Weade: I think you’re one of the youngest individuals or couples that I’ve ever interviewed that are already retired or at least when you retired, you were definitely one of the youngest. So, I’m curious. This is a question that I’ve asked hundreds of people, maybe thousands at this point but what does retirement mean to you?
Tina Paul: I think it means freedom to do whatever you want to do.
Casey Weade: Yep. I mean, we kind of just, it’s kind of like a perpetual vacation.
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Keith Paul: When we first got here, it was scary how easily I just forgot about work. No, I mean, it was really weird. I was like, man, I just feel like I’m on vacation and just kept going and going and going.
Tina Paul: Another thing, we never wake up to an alarm clock unless we have an early flight. There’s no reason that we have to get up that early anymore.
Keith Paul: I still get up early. I still get up at 5:30 every day. You know, the difference is I don’t have to, but I just do. And I probably take like twice as long drinking my coffee and read my email and all that, but I did when I was working. So, you know…
Tina Paul: A slower life.
Keith Paul: Slower life, you know.
Casey Weade: That’s fantastic. And we could probably wrap up the interview right here. However, I’ve got a couple of questions a little bit more for my own self-interest and that has to do with your wine because I noticed on Facebook, it seems like you’ve got a glass of wine in your hand every other post.
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: So, I wonder what’s your favorite – what’s the best Ecuadorian wine? And also, along with that, what’s your favorite wine city that you’ve been to?
Keith Paul: So, Ecuador really doesn’t make wine. There’s one winery here.
Casey Weade: In the whole country?
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Tina Paul: In the whole country.
Keith Paul: See, the problem with Ecuador, we grow so much stuff here but our climate is too temperate. You don’t get that stress. You don’t get the big change, you know, from real cold to real hot, and grapes need to be stressed to produce good wine.
Tina Paul: So, they do not produce good wine. Sorry.
Casey Weade: So, you are importing a lot of wine and I know there’s some extra costs that’s added to that. That’s made it one of your biggest budget items. But with all your world travel, all the wineries you’ve explored, if someone really wants to have a great experience, usually there you know, while we’re going to Napa Valley, I presume you’ve probably been there as well. What are your thoughts? Where’s your favorite wine city or wine travel that you’ve done?
Keith Paul: Well, we love California Cabs.
Tina Paul: Yeah, we do.
Keith Paul: We do.
Tina Paul: But you know, we were really surprised and we really love Slovenian wine. It was amazing how good they are and we thought, “Well, how come we never really had one?” but they don’t have to export. They can consume it within the country. So, most of it doesn’t get exported.
Keith Paul: Yeah. They’re a small vineyard so they don’t have to export. So, probably outside of California Cabs that we just love.
Tina Paul: I know another one.
Keith Paul: Slovenia is probably one of our top.
Tina Paul: Yeah. And we also were really surprised for people who like white wine, Nova Scotia. They make excellent white wine. Oh my gosh.
Keith Paul: We were really shocked. Who would’ve thought Nova Scotia produces wine?
Tina Paul: Yeah.
Keith Paul: Yeah, they got some great white wines in Nova Scotia.
Casey Weade: Well, I’ve got a couple of new places to add to my list.
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Tina Paul: We love the experience of wine too. So, what I say is you could have bad wine if you have a great tasting room and beautiful vineyards. That really helps. Not bad wine but not so good. Not the best.
Tina Paul: Okay. wine.
Casey Weade: Sure.
Tina Paul: Because there’s a reason every state in the United States.
Keith Paul: Yeah.
Casey Weade: Yeah. I can see you’re all about experience. You’re all about experiences, you’re all about adventures, and you’re really darn good at it. If someone wants to follow you, get in touch with you, read your blog, where can they find you two?
Keith Paul: We’re at www.RetireEarlyandTravel.com and we’re on every social media. It’s Retire Early and Travel on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube and Twitter. Yeah, we’re on everything.
Casey Weade: Alright. Well, I guarantee.
Keith Paul: Yeah. Let me just say something. This surprises a lot of people because our names Retire Early and Travel, many people think our followers are retirees. And believe it or not, it’s not the case. We have more Gen Xs than we do retirees.
Tina Paul: And then probably our next is millennials.
Keith Paul: Because they don’t want to work until 65. They want to figure out how the heck they can stop working earlier. So, these are the people that really follow us the most and ask us all these questions.
Tina Paul: I don’t think our own children maybe think that we work too much when we were in our careers. We’ve not had a real long discussion about that. But, you know, they have a little bit of a different take on the work-life-home balance. It might be for the good.
Keith Paul: You know, and I tell millennials and even Gen Xs, I say, “You know, the single best thing you could do today is if your job is a job that allows you to work remotely, and if you could have an American job and live in a country like Ecuador with your American wages, you could save so much money.” That’s like the best of both worlds. You could easily be on your path in early retirement if you could do that.
Tina Paul: But you can go to Asia and live in Thailand or Vietnam or Cambodia. These places are great places. We know people living there.
Keith Paul: And more and more jobs as you know, allow you to work remotely nowadays. So, like those people that can have a remote job and do that, boy, they could just save so much money.
Casey Weade: It’s a lot like investing I think. It just takes some time to educate yourself on it. It can be a little scary, especially if you don’t know anything about it but if you spend some time educating yourself, reading your blog, following you guys, and experimenting a little bit, I can see how it would be something that would be much easier to transition to and I know one of the things you said that I read anyways, and correct me if I’m wrong, that you refer to yourselves as forever students. And that’s probably helped you a lot both financially and with this move.
Keith Paul: Yep. That’s true. We’re always learning something new every day.
Casey Weade: Well, thank you so much for joining us here. I’m sure you picked up a bunch of new followers and I’m going to continue to follow you as well. Look forward to maybe catching up with you on one of those world travels someday. So, thank you very much. We’ll talk to you again soon, I hope.
Keith Paul: Right. Thank you, Casey.
Tina Paul: Thank you, Casey.