June 13: Beyond Getting By charts course for “abundant and intentional living”

June 13, 2024

Holly Trantham’s Beyond Getting By sets out the possibility of developing financial habits and actions that map to your lifestyle goals.

She explains how living well and building wealth have a complex relationship. By having a job “that requires me to examine the systems we live in…. I’m constantly thinking about what actually makes us happy and, by extension, what actually makes me happy. Because the truth is… we’ve all been sold lies about wealth, work and security that are actively making our lives worse.”

As an example, she talks about “shame-based budgeting” advice from other experts that leave the reader “smacked in the face with guilt” about such things as dining out, taking trips, and so on. Instead, your spending habits shouldn’t “come from a place of internalized shame. Budgeting this way makes you believe that you must be broke or poor because you’re lazy, incompetent, or otherwise undeserving of money… (which) makes you feel bad about every single `unnecessary’ expense.”

Her recommended three-point plan is simple yet effective:

  • Pay your bills on time.
  • Don’t go into debt funding your lifestyle.
  • Invest in your long-term financial goals.

Each chapter in this thoughtful book provides a workbook section where you can chart out your own ideas and beliefs and test them against Trantham’s key messages.

In a chapter exploring happiness, Trantham makes the point that rich people aren’t always happy. They spend more time alone than do those with lower income, as well as “26 minutes less per day with family,” the book notes. “Rich people also tend to surround themselves with other rich people,” and become “less interested in engaging with a lower-class person than with an upper-class counterpart” This, she argues, will tend to “corrode your capacity for empathy – a key ingredient to building and maintaining relationships.”

Wealth (without happiness) becomes an addiction, she concludes, like a gambling or shopping addiction.

Instead, she says, we all need to ask ourselves this – “are your current money habits aligned with your personal values and interests?”

As an example, she talks about how she does not have a “car dependent” lifestyle, and can walk most places and use public transportation, but still was a heavy user of ride-sharing services until she thought about it more carefully. “Defaulting to taking a car whenever I was mildly inconvenienced (via Uber or Lyft) was deteriorating my relationship to my community and causing me to live a less active lifestyle along the way.”

And, she notes, this is just one example – think of all the different lifestyle/money categories this sort of analysis can be applied to!

In a chapter that looks at investing, she boils things down to several “most important” considerations:

  • Get started as early as you can so your money has ample time to grow.
  • Make sure you’re actually investing the money you contribute to (for Canadians, a registered retirement savings plan, pension plan, or Tax Free Savings Account), as the accounts are not themselves investments, they just hold investments.
  • Continue contributing to your retirement regularly throughout your earning years.

“Retirement isn’t necessarily an age, it’s an amount of money. Financial independence means having enough money in the bank to stop working if you want to,” she explains. While stock markets have historically given returns in the 10 per cent range, “nothing is guaranteed… therefore, increasing the amount you’re able to invest over time is critical.”

This is especially important advice for women, she notes.

“According to the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement,`while the poverty rate for all women age 65 and older is 10.6 per cent (or just over one in 10), the poverty rate for single women living alone is almost twice as high at 19 per cent,’” she writes.

There’s a lot of ground covered in this great book.

On shopping, the author reminds us that “retailers do not have sales in order to save you money. They have them so they can earn more, because the more items they sell, even at a discount, the more revenue they’re going to generate overall. A $100 pair of jeans at 40 per cent off isn’t saving you $40, you’re still spending $60 you may not have necessarily spent.”

She takes a look at the idea of “manifesting,” the belief that if you “just visualize and vocalize your goals enough, they will come true.” A more realistic way to think about things is what she calls “facilitation,” a “much more pragmatic and intentional way to put the ideas behind manifestation into practice. It involves the process of visualizing not just the outcome you want, but the process it’s going to take to get there.”

Near the end of the book, Trantham makes the point that we tend to stick with what we are doing – the status quo – instead of making positive changes.

“No matter what the question is, the answer is often to choose the less convenient option,” she writes. “It is easier, in the short term, to stick to the status quo in your home life. But will that allow you to feel seen, respected, and like you’re contributing to an equitable home life in the long run?”

“Will it have been worth it (not speaking up) if things don’t change? Isn’t that a scarier thought that the possibility that they could?”

A very interesting and informative read – highly recommended!

If you’re saving on your own for retirement, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be just the ally you’ve been seeking. Amounts you contribute to the plan are invested in a pooled, low-cost and professionally managed fund. When it’s time to retire, your SPP options include the possibility of a lifetime monthly annuity payment or the flexible Variable Benefit.

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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