Friday, August 26, 2011


Grace Schwermer, 69, with her suitcase containing all her belongings.
If you want to retire comfortably and not have to worry about where the next meal is coming from, you need to have at least RM1 million, so the financial experts tell us. If you live in the urban areas, a more realistic figure of Rm5 million is needed to see you through the next 20 years after you retire.

While the jury is still out on the optimum size of our retirement egg, one woman shows us that it is very possible to live without money.

Heidemarie Schwermer, 69, has been doing just that for 15 years. In 1996, she quit her job, gave away all her possessions, closed her bank account, cancelled her health insurance and embarked on an experiment to prove that we don't need money to live. Her one year experiment was so successful that she continued with it for 15 years.

How did Schwermer do it? By using a swap and barter system, just like in the old days before money became a medium of exchange in transactions. The Star carried a one-page write-up about her recently. Click here to read more.

Her experiment attracted a network of mostly students and pensioners - people who were always short of cash. As word spread, Schwermer decided it was time to write about her experience. After her book was published, TV interviews followed and a documentary about her lifestyle helped spread her idea further. To date, the film has been screened at over 100 locations in 20 countries. There was a free screening in Singapore on 30 April this year. Debates and discussions are usually held after the screening.

Would Schwermer's idea work here in Malaysia and Singapore? We are so accustomed to using money to pay for goods and services, it would take a drastic shift in mindset to accept barter in lieu of money. However, a quick check on the internet shows there is no shortage of ideas on what can be swapped. People are beginning to discover that swapping is a terrific way to save money. With inflation on the rise, it's only a matter of time before swapping events become as common as product launches.

Click here for more information.

 Swapping clothes

A book swop in Singapore.


AT said...

This story is interesting, read about it in Star too. Swapping stuffs may be alright but staying in people's houses here in Malaysia? I don't think so. With the "boleh" attitude you do not know what will be missing in your house once you are back!

seniorsaloud said...

You'll be surprised. Home exchange is gaining popularity. Singapore has 40 listings on There's even one exclusively for seniors at
I think it's a great idea if properly managed with certain terms and conditions in place. We could have swaps for kids' stuff (they grow up so fast!), hobbies & crafts, electronic gadgets, etc.

LC Teh said...

Above all that you need to stay healthy, otherwise you'll need all your money back...

Anonymous said...

money is NOT a problem but moneyless IS !!

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~CovertOperations78~ said...

If we are not aiming for an all-or-nothing approach, but are willing to accept that we can barter for some services at least some of the time, it can be a very practical and user-friendly system, Lily!
E.g. I provide my services to the SPCA. In return, they have an agreement to spay and neuter strays for me. My mechanic adopts a stray cat. I get her spayed for him. He does my car tune-ups and maintenance for free. I do some copywriting for a friend, and she gives me 3 pots of wheatgrass plants for my cats.
Works wonderfully in our little community.
GB Shaw once envisioned something like this. What he didn't take into account is the extraction, processing and use of natural resources. His idea of "communalism" is one where people keep producing, producing and producing to meet never-ending demands for trumpets, bicycles, steaks and books.

seniorsaloud said...

Well, as long as we don't become enslaved by money, and can learn to cut back or do without, we can survive even on very limited financial resources. It would be interesting to learn from a single mother how she feeds her brood on welfare aid of Rm300-500 a month. Money has such a stranglehold on our lives. How did we get to this stage? Sigh.