Non-Traditional Retirement Story: 50% Savings Rate and Year-long Vacations

Rarely are people who achieve a non-traditional retirement profiled on mainstream media, and when they do it’s usually with a “omigosh look at these crazy people” type of article. So I was surprised when I ran across this couple who talk casually about saving 50% of their income and taking year-long vacations every few years on a Nationwide Insurance commercial. Via ERE Facebook page.

Further digging revealed their full names as Richard Ligato and Amanda Bejarano-Ligato, who run their own website and wrote a book Wide-Eyed Wanderers: A Befuddling Journey from the Rat Race to the Roads of Latin America & Africa in 2005. Here’s another brief description of their story from a USA Today article:

“The key is living like you did when you were a student,” says Rich Ligato, 45, who lives in San Diego. While not completely financially independent, Ligato and his wife, Amanda, stopped working steady jobs more than a decade ago. Their goal is working for three years, taking odd jobs, saving their money, then enjoying a year-long vacation break, doing something such as living in India or biking along the Western coast of the U.S. When they return, they take entirely different jobs.

Rich is currently teaching biking classes and managing an apartment, while Amanda is teaching yoga. “It’s not about money, it’s about freedom,” he says. “If you’re just driving to make things secure and safe, think about what that means. There’s nothing interesting in life. You might as well die.”

(Updated to add: I haven’t read the financial particulars of their situation, but given their 50% savings rate alone the math would say they could work one year and take the next year off if they just kept their spending rate constant. But they work 3 and take 1 year off. So even if they spend double what they do when working, then they could put away 1 year of savings for retirement, and then spend the other 2 years on their year-long vacation. That’s still more than the average person puts away (1 full year of expenses every 4 years, or 25% of their combined annual salary every year). This may be off, but roughly how I imagine it working out.)

I always get excited by stories like this; they may not be “retired” but they are living consciously and achieving their dreams. (I’m really looking for one of these stories where they have kids and travel the world.) I still bought their book and starting reading it already. Not sure how new this is, but Amazon does this neat thing now when you order a physical book, they let you start reading the beginning on the Kindle while you wait for it to arrive. Nice for us who prefer physical books but are also impatient. ;)

Comments

  1. I too would like to see more examples of early retirement with kids. It doesn’t seem too hard to take care of yourself and have fun if you are only responsible for yourself, because as the article says, we all did it in college to some extent. There comes a time to grow up and have a family, though, instead of just retiring early for your own enjoyment. Juggling the responsibilities (and joys) of a family and not being tied to a tedious or long-houred job is what I would consider a much more worthy (and rare) accomplishment.

    • Totally agree. In addition, perhaps taking your kids abroad isn’t seen as a fun vacation but instead a responsible part of raising children.

  2. Is there 50% savings rate going towards retiring? I took it to be going towards there year long vacation. If the latter I don’t consider that long term saving. Someone could save 50% for 3 years only to blow it on a 50 grand car. These people appear to have different consumer choices and would rather have a long vacation.

    • I haven’t read the financial particulars of their situation, but given their 50% savings rate alone the math would say they could work one year and take the next year off if they just kept their spending rate constant. But they work 3 and take 1 year off. So even if they spend double what they do when working, then they could put away 1 year of savings for retirement, and then spend the other 2 years on their year-long vacation. That’s still more than the average person puts away (1 full year of expenses every 4 years, or 25% of their combined annual salary every year). This may be off, but roughly how I imagine it working out.

  3. I used to do that when I was single; the most I could stand working without a long break was 3 years;
    I am an engineer and in those days it was pretty easy to find work when I returned from one of my long breaks; there was a engineering shortage and the outsourcing hadn’t started like today; today it is a different story; engineers are a dime a dozen;

  4. I was really intrigued by their lifestyle and idea of “retirement” every few years. I don’t think I could ever do it this way though and just take odd jobs every few years unless I was working in a field where there was always demand for the job and it was simple to return to. Nevertheless, I’m really interested in reading more about their story too, thanks!

  5. Joshua Katt says:

    What a joke. I don’t see any mention of these guys having kids. Easy to “drop out” when you don’t have any one depending on you. Really a non story, if you choose not to have kids (perfectly fine), this is the life you SHOULD be living…

    • Really inspired parenting might mean showing your kid that “growing up”, “being responsible” and “being a good parent” doesn’t mean that one must push aside their dreams and one can’t incorporate fun or adventure into family life. Kids learn the most from observing you as a role model more than any thing you tell them. Stretch yourself and show it is possible for grownups to find creative ways to have their fun adventures in their life or live differently while also being a responsible parent. Insist on your right to have fun as a grownup and you give permission for your kids to be free and happy without feeling like they have burdened you and kept you from your dreams. Push yourself to find a way to have a fun life for yourself as a grownup and give your kids the gift of an vision of adulthood to look forward to and an example of how to do it.

  6. @Joshua
    Ah yes, children, the great equalizer of life. My wife and I plan to travel the world also but our kids are off the payroll.

  7. You think children stop you until you see lots of examples of people doing it.

    I traveled around the world for two years. Once you get on the road, you realize it is all easier and safer than you think. You realize there are many more people doing this than you think. In fact, every bizarre corner in the world has a “backpack traveller’s hangout” neighborhood where you can link up with other travelers, exchange tips, reorganize etc while moving around on your adventure. You have the feeling the whole world is traveling.

    There you will meet people traveling around the world with kids. They say the locals love their kids, their kids love playing with other local kids and it’s a great way of linking with people all over the world. Most of the people traveling with kids do it with really little kids who aren’t so wrapped in their school life. Also spending time abroad is a great place for single moms, because hiring any kind of help on the fly is so easy and incredibly cheap. It’s surprising how easily many kids adapt to the uncomfortableness of traveling. I’ve seen many kids on hot, sweaty, broken down buses in some jungle without bathrooms or convenient food who are sleeping or playing and having less trouble with the travel hiccup than the parents. These parents see the travel experience as part of their child’s education.

    The funny thing is that in places like most of Asia, people are nicer, more helpful and community minded then your own neighborhood in a western country … so often they care more about your kids than your next door neighbor back home. For example, in many places if you are caught in the rain, a local would come out with their umbrella, motion you to their home, give you a cup of tea and something to eat, play with your kids until the rain clears. If you were walking down the street in a US neighborhood, would most strangers do that?

    Typically these parents get an old bus and drive their family “home” around from place to place. Others who don’t want to move their kids around so much will pick an exotic “base” to explore from (staying long places in some places can be incredibly cheap – usually traveling for four months slowly looking for deals is cheaper than traveling quickly for two weeks when you pay more to avoid travel hiccups wasting your limited travel time). Also their are plenty of people who look for expat jobs, such as teaching in an international school, etc. and travel all around with their kids. Their kids come back with an incredible understanding about the world and broader knowledge of how to do things in life because they’ve seen many more different ways people in the world solve the same life challenges.

    Typically if both parents are into it and they raise their kids this way, then everyone is happy traveling. Usually if one parent is super excited and starts later in life to try to get the family to go along when the kids are older, then there is usually one person in the family who isn’t happy.

    So, when you blame your kids or your elderly parents or your dog for not being able to do something, get brutally honest with yourself and ask yourself what might be some other reasons why you are not doing it.

    Perhaps you are just afraid, or it’s not really that important to you, or you haven’t got creative enough to figure out how or you haven’t sought out role models to change your belief system about what is possible.

    So while you are sitting at home replying to blogs that it can’t be done, you’ll find there are plenty of people out there doing it and having amazing experiences, if you look outside of your circle and mix among those who are doing it.

    We have been talking about all this on Jonathan’s other blog post:
    http://www.mymoneyblog.com/money-is-independence.html

    Marie

    • I wanted to add …. there may be things that make living these adventures more challenging but also you’d be surprised how if you are really interested in having these kinds of adventures then you will reach a mindset where it will come your way, nothing can stop you and some aspects may end up being easier than you think.

    • totallly agree, would be hard with kids so easy for them to do.

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