- Paul McCartney -
A lot of people are working hard just to pay for a roof over their head and buy food. Many retirees are struggling with financial instability based on fluctuating returns on their 401K or IRAs and no increase in social security benefits this year. This is a rough time, to say the least.
Heidimarie Schwermer died March 23 at the age of 74 . If you don't know who she is, don't feel alone. I didn't either until I read about her death and now I wish I heard about her sooner. Heidimarie was a German psychotherapist who made a decision in her mid fifties to live without money. She spent 20 years as a teacher while raising her two children, changed careers and then retired as a psychotherapist. She died after a battle with cancer.
Heidimarie spent time in her later years traveling to spread her story of how she managed without money. She wanted to teach others not to let money rob them of what was important in life. She spread the message that obtaining more possessions actually robs us of our relationships and our freedom. We become controlled by our money, trying to maintain a certain lifestyle that is actually making us less and less happy. Since she gave up money, she claimed her relationships benefited and her connection with humanity grew.
She was asked how she survives. Where did she live? Who pays her bills? Living with other people temporarily, often house sitting in return for a place to sleep and food. Everything she owned and needed was in two small suitcases. She was never left to sleep on the streets or live as a homeless person.
Her story can be seen here in a 52 minute documentary about her life: https://vimeo.com/21063795
She also has a Ted Talk here: https://youtu.be/i1rTu_cOT5k
So, could you live without money? Could you give up your home, your bills, your bed? The message of Heidi was not that she was advocating that everyone does what she is doing, but that people would realize that living with less is actually living with more. Spending more time with family and friends instead of working the overtime required to pay for the too large house or the yearly new car upgrade. Choosing family meals cooked at home rather than eating out in fancy and expensive restaurants.
Some of us, as retirees, may have no choice but to live more frugally. It may be a requirement due to the amount of money we now have to live on. We no longer work, so we can no longer put in extra hours to make more money. Our incomes are fixed or at least less than they once were.
How do you feel about this? Do you think of your limited income and get depressed? Do you accept it and make the best of it? Have you found new ways to make your money go farther? Do you spend more quality time with your family rather than spend money on them?
What is more important in your life? Money or people? Sometimes the answer is people and yet, we send money for birthdays instead of going to see them for their birthdays, we act as banks for our grown children in order to maintain contact with them (If they need money, they call. If they don't need money, you never hear from them), and we do other things that show our priority in life is being sure we have money.
I could not live as Heidimarie. Although it sounds intriguing, adventurous, and even a bit romantic, it's not for me. I live in America where I have to pay for my own healthcare. In Germany, Heidimarie had "free" healthcare (if there is such a thing as free) and a safety net of a government pension. However, her message of living more on less has always been my mantra. I don't need name brand clothes to feel important. In fact, I wear a limited number of outfits over and over. I cook at home whenever I am home, and when I do eat out, I do not like to spend an enormous amount of money at a high end restaurant when I can eat well at a lower end one.
As a result, I have saved some money that has come in handy to help others out when they need it. Not for frivolous things, but for medical or physical needs, not wants. When I spend time with my children, it's not to provide gifts, but to provide my love and attention. If I take my granddaughter a gift, which I try to do each time I travel the two and half hours to see her, it's something small or something I made for her. I may pick up something at the dollar store and she is thrilled to receive it. The idea is not the size or expense, she is thrilled that I just remembered her and I have come to see her.
That's part of the reason I write product reviews and emphasize that spending a lot of money on high-end products is not necessary. I may not be Heidimarie Schwermer, but in my own small way, I want to help others learn how to spend less money on products they use.
No matter how much or how little money we have, we can survive if we develop a healthy attitude about money.
Do you control your money or does your money control you? If you have family, do they contact you when they need something or just because they miss you? Could you live without money like Heidimarie did?