Some years ago someone sent me a list of facts, one of those “read this!” internet things. I’ve forgotten most of it, but one fact stuck with me. It’s this:
If you have money in the bank, cash in your pocket, and a dish of change somewhere in the house, you’re among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
That really changed my perspective on my own life, because I had all those things. True, the money in the bank was all spoken for, the cash in my pocket was strictly for necessities, and I frequently raided the change jar. I’m not saying I was any better off materially than I’d been before, because I wasn’t. Where I was better off was in my head, because the focus had been switched from what I didn’t have to what I did.
There’s another piece to prosperity, and it’s the word “thrift”. We think of “thrifty” as pertaining strictly to money, but in fact it’s a word from farming. An “unthrifty” animal is one that wastes away and does poorly. A “thrifty” one does well on the same feed. Thrift is not just a matter of getting a bargain at the grocery store – it’s doing well on the resources one has.
Writers and artists, far from being the wastrels and financial idiots that we’re reputed to be, are often very good at managing their money. They have to be, because there’s not much to manage. My mother used to speak of “pinching the nickel until the beaver screams”. There are a lot of screaming beavers in my house, and the loons on the dollars aren’t that happy, either.
Even in a prosperous country like Canada, we’re bombarded with messages that say, in effect, that even people living on minimum wage should be investing thousands in RRSPs and mutual funds for their retirements. We are irresponsible if we don’t do that. We’re irresponsible if we don’t save as much as some financial expert says we should.
“It’s easy to pay yourself first!” they trumpet. “Put fifty or a hundred dollars aside every week!” I once had a banker say to me, when I was trying to put together the down payment on the farm, “It’s only twenty thousand dollars – you’d be surprised how fast it mounts up.” Since my take-home was just over fifteen thousand, he was right – I would have been gobsmacked to see it mount up at all.
These people are not living in our world. Stop listening to them. Listen instead to this: you have a roof, and food on the table, and clothes on your back. Basic education is still covered in this country, and basic medical care. We are way ahead of the curve for most of the world.
While the high-rollers are whining about the piddling fifteen hundred a month Canada Pension pays, I’m seeing it as my ticket to full-time writing. I can make that pay a month’s bills, because I’ve had to learn how to do it.
Being able to live on what you have – that, my friends, is real prosperity.