Living a Rich Life Before and During Retirement

September 3, 2010

By Heather Compton and Dennis Blas

Q. We frequently talk about a “rich” life but how is that possible on a small income?

A. Regardless of our relative wealth or the size of our wallets, abundance starts first as a state of mind and second as daily acts of discipline.

Do You Have Enough?

Lynne Twist's BookWe are fans of the work of activist and author Lynne Twist who describes the three lies of scarcity that North Americans tell themselves – there is never enough, more is better, and that’s just the way it is. We all measure and experience abundance differently.

Let me assure you that your level of income has very little to do with your felt sense of abundance, sufficiency or “enough.”

Think back to your early days. How many bathrooms or bedrooms were in the home you grew up in? How many cars did your family own? What did your furnishings look like in your first place? You may not choose to go back to living that way but were you unhappy or dissatisfied? Humans are very adaptable. We can change our spending and consuming behaviour to suit our circumstances. Dennis and I believe we can have anything – but we can’t have everything. Sometimes that means some hard choices.

Divine Indulgences

It doesn’t need to take a lot of wallet power to create a feeling of abundance. When my boys were small fifty cents worth of blue whale candies or a new comic book could create it. I love the concept of a decadent delight or a divine indulgence. Take a moment and think of 3 things you could purchase for $20 or less that would add to the quality of your life.

How about a travel DVD, a library membership, a matinee movie, fancy bath soap? One of my favourite clients always looked like she stepped out of a magazine fashion spread. She took pride in finding fabulous fashions at second-hand clothing shops and often bragged how little she spent on each outfit.

Frugalists Unite!

On a Dollar a Day BookThe good news is that frugal is back in style and lots of people are writing and blogging about their thriftiness so we can all share in their ideas. Internet sites like Wise Bread show us how to “live large on a small budget”. A recent article on Million Dollar Journey presented 25 ways to save money, a couple blogging at One Dollar Diet relate how they managed to eat on $1 per day! Their story was picked up by both Time and Maclean’s magazines and they published a book, On A Dollar A Day, detailing the experience.

I lack the patience but there are lots of sites for coupon shoppers such as and Red Flag Deals. Website Post Consumers promotes the idea you don’t have to buy at all to be happy. Frugal travellers willing to house swap can access sites like There are loads of regular financial columnists who have developed a loyal following such as Liz Pulliam Weston on MSN, Jonathan Chevreau at the Financial Post or Rob Carrick of the Globe and Mail. Carrick regularly directs readers to other web sites such as Wallet Pop and a recent article on 10 everyday ways to be frugal (that you don’t already know about). Google frugal living or thrift and you’ll find more resources than you have time to sift through! The upside of searching the Internet for ideas on living within our means – it will keep us too busy to spend money at the mall!

I certainly felt wealthier when I read this in a recent e-mail – If you have a full fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are wealthier than 75% of the world’s population. True? I don’t know but I do know we truly are richer than we think.

About the Authors: Heather Compton has presented seminars on financial and retirement lifestyle issues for over 30 years. She retired as Vice President and Senior Investment Advisor with a major financial services company. Heather and husband Dennis Blas co-present retirement seminars for a variety of corporate clients and are the co-authors of Retirement Rocks! Canadian Boomers Invest in Life. You can find their book, online or in independent bookstores. See more of their advice at Retirement Rocks.

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