Saturday, 28 July 2012

#306: The Thriftiest Retiree

If you have ever given any thought to how you are going to make ends meet in retirement, let me tell you about Heidimarie Schwermer.

This 70 year old German woman could very possibly be the thriftiest retiree ever because she gets by with no money at all.  After an experiment with bartering, she decided to see how little she actually needed to survive.  With her children no longer at home, she left her career as a psychotherapist, gave away most of her possessions, packed nothing but essentials into one suitcase and set out to see what would happen.

That was 16 years ago, and she is still committed to this unusual lifestyle. In fact, a recent film about her, Living without Money celebrates her philosophy. She maintains that unencumbered by worldly goods, she is better able to appreciate what is really important here and now.

How does she do it?

She barters.
She is given things.
She stays with people she knows
She trusts that her needs will be provided, and miraculously, they are.
Could you live like this?  The bartering seems almost do-able. But I can’t imagine friends and acquaintances enabling my thrifty lifestyle (and my philosophy) week after week, year after year -- willingly opening their closets, refrigerators and homes. They would quickly tire of my experiment even if I could muster the energy and the desire to keep it going. 

This leads me to speculate that what makes thrifty Heidi different from the rest of us (from me, at any rate) is her charisma.  I think people are moved by her sincere message and want to to help her out.  But if she weren’t a dynamic, attractive, interesting person, mere acquaintances would not be falling all over themselves to offer aid.  Otherwise, the homeless shelters would be empty and every drifter would have a bed for the night with a stranger. 

Another thought:  I wonder if Heidimarie has ever wanted out of her parsimonious prison and didn’t know how to make the break.  And now that she is a famous for living without money, how can she change her mind?  She is destined to live forever at the whim of other people’s kindness. That film about her?  It has the makings of a horror flick, as far as I can see.



  1. To be honest, I would miss shopping.

  2. As far as I can make out, she IS a homeless person. I don't think living off the charity of friends is enlightened! There is word for that. It is called 'sponging'.

  3. I'm with you both, but I absolutely amazed that she had being doing this for so long. Bruce has made an interesting observation --"normal people are not satisfied with such shallow relationships over the long hall". I think she must be rather narcissistic.....