How much money do you need?

In the 1980s, everytime I did not go to watch a movie with my parents, I would request I get rewarded for NOT watching the movie. The first time I made money on my own was thirty years ago in 1987. I was 14 and we won the senior sports quiz competition. We were given Rs 75 as the prize money (Worth Rs 800 today). I would typically spend my money on 3 things — 1 Virtue, 1 Vice and 1 I don’t know what.

Most of the money I earned then would go in buying books and current affair magazines. I and my dad would go to the market (primarily to buy fresh produce, bakery and stuff like that) and I would disengage with my dad and visit the book store. My primary interest was news magazines and eventually I would buy one of them. I would also buy other books of information and knowledge. Which is what I did with my Rs 75, buying a couple of knowledge books. That investment has paid off well and it has now become my vocation. The evil thing I would do with my money was to buy chocolates (ice creams were not easily available then), the impact of which can be still seen in my teeth. I have deep one way financial relationships with my dentists and it involves me swiping my debit card very often in their premises. I can now write a short article on root canal treatments also. I also have a nice story about my dentist in Bangalore but that is for another article. The third ‘investment’ was in ‘English’ movies. I am not sure how that one turned out because when I moved to the UK, I realised I knew almost nothing about western civilisation, my exposure through western movies was almost zero. Anyway, to summarize, my needs in the 1980s were fairly simple.

The end of the cold war, Liberalisation, India Today and TimesofIndia all corrupted our minds in the 1990s. Moving to Delhi completed the missing links. By the late 90s, I was fully introduced to consumerism (Branded clothes, expensive restaurants, Multiplex movies, reducing usage of public transport and son) . Between 1999 and 2010, I was fully in the clutches of consumerism. Initially, I resisted buying a car for many years as I was happy living a simpe life but eventually pratical factors over ruled my stupid theories. Still, most of my wealth was utilised to acquire a property, the second largest expense was on day to day consumption and the next biggest one was on foreign holidays. Travelling abroad in my view was the most fulfilling way to spend one’s money.

As I reached the magical 40s, the use for money has come down again. I travel less often, I am not dying to buy an expensive car (in fact, I sold my second car), I am not looking to upgrade my car. It does not mean I don’t spend money, I don’t think I really go all out with it. One fine day, I walked to the spouse and told her I am going to give away MOST of my share of wealth to a science charity in India (if there is one). I am a patriot and I believe getting our kids to love science, invent and innovate will dramatically change the quality of our life in India. I need to execute this via a Will now, will do so soon.

When I look at myself, I needed as much money to fulfill my values. Initially it was books, later on it was to travel. Curiosity is an important driver of my life and that took some part of my expenditure. The other important value was security, that explains my sensible investments in property and the stock markets (can’t take solo credit). The third element of my life is giving, I have generally not been stingy about giving and spending money on others (I don’t lend as a rule) and so I decided to give away most of my share of wealth to charity

I feel most of us need as much money as our values. Those driven by ‘Greed’ are also driven by some value. Knowing your values is important because you can manage your needs better. When people are madly amassing wealth, it not only tells us that one of their values (Power or Security for example) is overloaded but also that they found no other way other than wealth to fulfill that value. Practical needs apart, your values can be met by things other than wealth also. Just that you don’t know your values in the first place. There are numerous tools available online to know your values, please try one of those tools, will help you know yourself better. It is like many ‘right wingers’ in India realising in aghast that they were apparently liberal too (after all the abusing of liberals)

That aside, please get a financial advisor to look at your portfolio, life changes once your asset allocation has been done by a professional as per your needs. This is the BEST practical advice I can give anybody.

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