Aldridge acknowledges that the cost of living is lower where they are, but says they make an art form out of living well on less. They grow most of their own food, shop for clothes at yard sales, which Aldridge says is a form of entertainment for her, and find joy in small construction and gardening projects on their property.
The two cook their own meals from scratch and volunteer to give presentations on the environmental impact of food choices, as well as what Aldridge calls "voluntary simplicity."
"Dale and I would both rather have our time," she says, "even if we end up choosing to work hard at gardening or building. At least we're the ones determining what we're going to do with our precious life energy."
Finding passion outside of a career that had become a chore is a theme among most extreme early retirees. For the Kaderlis, that meant world travel and a chance to experience diverse cultures.
"We have our youth and spirit of adventure," the Kaderlis
say. "The opportunity to travel to exotic locations and meet people
from foreign lands has given us a global view that no amount of
money could buy."
Aldridge and Lugenbehl enjoy their day-to-day life so much that the thought of vacationing elsewhere rarely occurs to them.
"We exercise faithfully three days a week, and usually take a long walk on the other four," says Aldridge. "My mother lives up here now and we take care of her. We do all the regular garden and orchard work."
The abundance of time and the freedom to choose how to spend it are the most satisfying aspects of retirement for Aldridge. "It's being able to get up each morning and decide for myself what I'm going to be doing that day. Honestly, I can't think of any downside; at least there hasn't been one for me."
Whether it's the green tinge of envy or an aversion to anyone who steps off life's predictable treadmill, extreme early retirees often face unexpected opposition from those around them.
"Back when we left our jobs, we got mostly shock," says Aldridge. "Dale's mother was a classic. She was sure we were going to go hungry and be out in the cold. That was about 13 years ago, and it's never been a problem."
"Some people have expressed envy, but we don't think we did anything they couldn't do if it really was a priority for them," she adds. "Most of our work history was part-time, and not all that highly paid."
Aldridge says Lugenbehl's mother couldn't imagine how they would fill their time in retirement.
"It was as if she thought we wouldn't be able to find things to do," Aldridge says. "My response was to ask her what she did with her time. Not another word was said because she realized that she'd never had any trouble in that regard."