Most retirement strategies focus on ‘wealth creation’ or providing enough money to maintain a pre-retirement extravagant lifestyle. But there is another way to approach retirement. It’s called Simple Living – Self-Sufficiency – Natural Living, and is simply a sustainable and maintainable Lifestyle; a very rewarding and fulfilling way of Life. Choosing to live sustainably as a retirement strategy is more about reducing outgoings than maximizing income. Our societal desire for more, more, more, sometimes seems insatiable and is not maintainable or sustainable for a lot of people or the planet. In this time of uncertainty and instability – politically, economically, socially, culturally and environmentally – self-sufficiency as opposed to dependence is a safer, more empowering option. NB even money is dependent on the political, economic and societal systems maintaining their equilibrium.
Often when people hear about living simply sustainably, they can become quite defensive, wanting to protect their material world. After all lots of people have worked hard to get the stuff they have. But is consumerism really that rewarding? Remember the feeling an hour, a day or a week after you buy something, remember the low after the high of purchasing has worn off. Remember the unfulfilled desire nudging you to go out and shop some more to feel better again, creating a never-ending cycle of never quite having bought enough. And then there is the increasing debt and long work hours often needed to purchase and maintain the stuff which was supposed to bring us happiness and fulfillment. This whole cycle has a way of trapping us.
You can stay on this treadmill or you can plan to take care of yourself in retirement, not just in monetary ways but by physically taking care of your own needs as well. There is a power in self-sufficiency and the knowledge that you can take care of yourself, without being reliant on our increasingly unreliable and uncertain societal norms.
Now is the time to start, to prepare. Start growing your own food, build a compost bin or a worm farm, cook your meals from scratch (apart from anything else, at least then you know what is in them!), make your own cleaning products (and save a heap of money), learn about simple personal healthcare (to focus on wellness rather than sickness), start de-cluttering and selling what you no longer Need, to name a few places to start. If you do have extra money to spend, invest in things that can reduce your need for money in the future; ie equipment or tools to help you make things you might need or need to fix, plant fruit and nut trees, buy books that teach you how to do things yourself, invest in water tanks, a first aid kit, solar panels, chickens, or whatever feels right for you.
As much as I would like to say that money does not matter, in the here and now, money is the currency of our culture. A certain amount is required for most of us to buy the things we can’t produce ourselves and to pay fees and taxes. It is how our society operates. But we can maximize a healthier, more simply natural and sustainable lifestyle to minimize need for income.
I have chosen the Simply Natural approach as my retirement plan. Actually, I think I have been semi-retired my whole life, with my lifestyle values and choices. I have found that a simple life has real meaning, some hard work at times, but is so naturally rewarding and fulfilling I can’t imagine living any other way. I find myself watching virtually no TV, as I much prefer to spend the time learning, relearning and researching better, healthier ways of doing things and living my life. It is so empowering and rewarding to be able to produce and create a healthy and natural way of living for yourself and your family.
Simplicity is the ultimate Sophistication
We have mostly forgotten how to live simply. The simple life of making things together, growing food together, cooking together, sharing and most of all having fun together, which is really the simple home truth that people caught in the regular consumer culture just don’t seem to realize. Joining together and sharing with friends, family and neighbours in a common bond, like we used to in days now mostly gone by, feeds the body, mind and soul. Living simply, and with integrity, like our grandparents or great grandparents, is what a full life was, and still is, all about.
A culture that is hooked on the belief that money is the answer to life’s questions and problems, is not the culture that can or even has any desire to look for something with more wholesome meaning, other than continual economic growth, market forces, consumerism, production for profit, and affluence. A consumer society cannot be reformed to make it sustainable or maintainable; it must be largely replaced by a society with fundamentally different belief values.
The essential aim is not to fight against consumer-capitalist society, but to build an alternative to it. This can’t be achieved from the top, either by governments, green parties or revolutions. This can only be a grassroots transition led by ordinary people, working out how they can find a “Better Way” of viewing Life’s Value. A movement where grassroots people move away from our societal norms and retire or semi retire to implement their “Better Way of Living”.
What do you value? What does retirement mean to you?