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Living frugally helps many Canadian seniors lead a good life in their golden years.

What if we all lived like frugal seniors?

Let me tell you about Richard T. Through social circles, I know him as farmer who passed on peacefully in his sleep not so long ago at the age of 80. From what others have said about him, he was a good-natured, family-loving guy and a pretty agile and active soul right up until near the end when his ticker simply stopped.

His wife died shortly after he retired on cue at 65, but he was not alone during his golden years, enjoying the company of a son and daughter, along with four grandchildren, and six great grandchildren as time marched on. He lived comfortably as a senior, though he spent little money on himself and asked little of life materially speaking. This he did out of choice rather than necessity, for he was very successful as a farmer with a hefty retirement nest egg said to be in the millions. I think his ability to create a budget to spend conservatively serves as an example to us all.

This millionaire farmer spent frugally based on a monthly budget about equal to what most seniors across Canada live on.

Upon retirement, he passed all responsibility for the family farm over to his son (his daughter, who had moved on to the big city, happily agreed to a buy-out of her share of the spread). After his wife passed, Richard T. surprised everyone by deciding to move away from the farm and live independently in a small town about ten miles from the homestead. Here he lived frugally, simply, and happily for the rest of his days.

He bought a modest, old two-story wood-frame house (a fixer-upper) with four bedrooms, one for himself, of course, and one devoted to accommodating adult guests. The other two bedrooms mostly served to accommodate kids, decked out as they were with bunk beds wall to wall. The house was the last big expenditure of his life. Otherwise he spent little. In fact, by every indication – aside from buying nice but never super expensive gifts for the kids and a small allotment for a weekly visit by a housekeeper – this millionaire farmer did not spent on extras. His monthly budget was about equal to what seniors across Canada live on through average pensions and benefits.

He drove a 22-year-old Ford half-ton that ran perfectly and looked good, too; he last updated his wardrobe about the same time he bought the truck.

His skills and circumstances helped him get on economically. Naturally, he was good with machinery and such – giving it tender, loving care. He was a wizard at everything from auto repairs and carpentry to plumbing and electrical work. He drove a 22-year-old Ford half-ton that ran perfectly and looked pretty good, too. Someone said he last updated his wardrobe about the same time he bought the truck (the clothes ran fine, too, apparently).

Meanwhile, his doctor put him on a diet largely consisting of fresh vegetables and fruit, much of which came right to his kitchen from the local soil. On top of that, again to the family’s surprise, he took up where his wife left off as a great cook after a couple of year’s practice. Rarely did he spend on lavish dinners out, except on special occasions usually involving the great grand kids, whose company he loved (reportedly, the kid in him often emerged to join in mischief amongst the wee ones).

Normally, his idea of entertainment was spending a weekend fishing with his elderly buddies. But then stamp collecting caught his fancy.  

As an active soul, he remained involved in community affairs through the local Lions Club, the Masonic Lodge, and the local rodeo and hockey associations. Then came one last big surprise in 2007 when he took to the Internet after a lifetime of avoiding it. Normally, his idea of entertainment – including travel – was spending a weekend fishing locally with his elderly buddies (fellow farmers all). Then stamp collecting caught his fancy.  

He realized that thanks to technology, a whole world of tiny, printed personages, noble beasts, and famous sites was waiting to be explored online. So he got himself a cheap laptop on discount and pretty soon he was enjoying hours of pleasure online trading stamps and stories with other collectors around the world. Virtually all of the 400 or so stamps he collected over eight years could be had for anything from 10 to 30 dollars, his son said.

What if all of us in Canada took the spirit of his retirement to heart – a spirit not based on spending, but on simple living and simple pleasures.

Learning all this stuff about Richard T., the thought occurred to me: what if all of us in Canada took the spirit of his retirement to heart – a spirit not based on spending, but on simple living and simple pleasures. What if we all planned for golden years that fully honoured what money can’t buy – the love of family, the joy of community, and the pleasure of modest pursuits that support an interesting life of the mind and body?

What a wonderful, financially worry-free time we would all have to look forward to, be we millionaire farmers or not.

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Joyce Wayne

Joyce Wayne has been writing about social issues, business and culture for forty years.

This year she is publishing her second novel, Last Night of the World, a spy thriller about Soviet spies operating in Canada during World War II. Joyce is also the author of The Cook’s Temptation. An award-winning journalist, Joyce is most interested in the stories of men and women trying to thrive in challenging circumstances.

Here, she is exploring matters relevant to the lives of retirees and soon-to-be-retirees facing the rapidly changing circumstances of the new retirement.

Joyce Wayne

Joyce Wayne

Author of 'The Cook's Temptation',
Joyce Wayne, has won numerous
awards for her contribution in
Journalism and Fiction

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