How Much Money is Enough?

One of the instances which has shocked the country recently is the suicide of coffee baron V.G. Siddhartha. People have been reacting to it in different ways, be it jokes in poor taste, conspiracy theories, the struggles of entrepreneurs or even to take life lessons from this instance. In most cases, I have been insulating myself from these conversations as I am not very sure what that will achieve.

However, some days back, I found myself on a collision course with the one person I find difficult to ignore, my seemingly recently converted pseudo-socialist father. On my usual call home, during my commute back from work at eight in the evening, I suddenly find him telling me how V.G. Siddhartha himself seems to have said there needs to be a line drawn when it comes to money and in a way almost shun it. After a short conversation, where I ran out of arguments, unknown to my dad, we agreed to disagree. In case you are sympathizing with my mother, she has given up on the two of us and our arguments a long time back!

However, like a lot of times in life, his simple gesture (in this instance unintentional) ended up planting a seed of thought in my mind which kept growing to take it over. So, I decided to seek some wisdom from Google as well as use it to inform myself to formulate my thoughts on the subject.

What does money mean to you?

My eureka moment about money was in a talk by Carl Richards when he talked about the emotional aspect of money. Ironically enough, that was also my first post on Elementum Money where I urged readers to try and dig deep to understand what money really achieved for them.

It is not an easy question. The problem is that sometimes possible answers might also make people squirm or feel uneasy. This article on Inc.com came up with really interesting 8 reasons of how people might view money which could give you some thought starters when you embark on this exercise.

When I think about money, I want to keep reminding myself that money is a tool. Money is not a score to be kept. Money is not a value of self-worth or a reflection of how I am performing. I would rather make my own benchmarks which are not defined by a race for money. It could be about how many people’s lives I have touched meaningfully. It could be about deep engaging relationships with people I care about. Life is about far more than money.

Does that mean you shun money?

If you are rolling your eyes by now, welcome to the club. I almost started wondering since when did I start relating to such philosophical clichés. However, it is now time for one of my favourite phrases – where is the catch?

As I mentioned in my last post, nothing can be defined in extremities. Yes, life is about far more than money and making it your sole goal is bound to be detrimental to your peace of mind and well-being. But, does that mean money is not important at all? In this respect, I really liked this quote from one of the weekly columns in ET Money by Uma Shashikant:

Those who argue that money is not important do not know the anxiety, helplessness and fear caused by not having enough money when an unexpected situation presents itself.

-Uma Shashikant

Is there a point to be argued trashing the idea of “too much money” or is the point more to do with how people choose to spend that money?

Instead of going round and round in circles ending up in even more question marks, let me try and put my point succinctly. Money is important. Yet, like a lot of forces of nature like fire and water, money too is a great servant but a horrible master. Use money as a tool or even as an aftereffect of doing things that you like or provide value to society. However, let its pursuit not lord over you in thought and actions. Let it not end up eroding your integrity or character where you are no able to meet your own eyes in the mirror, instead choosing to see dollar or rupee signs in place of your pupils. Yeah, I am quite a visual thinker!

So, what is the point?

Closing this loop, let me go back to where it all started – my conversation with my father. I realized that the reason why I am probably choosing to respond to him via Elementum Money is also the fact that off late, writing out my thoughts and arguments works out better than impatiently blurting out whatever the fast-thinking side of my brain chooses to come up with, at the moment. (Side note: I am not being vain here by calling myself fast thinking. Rather, I mean the impulsive side of the brain as described by Daniel Kahneman in Thinking Fast & Slow)

In effect, I think my dad was right and wrong. There is a threshold level of money we all need to make us happy, and different researches have come up with different numbers on that point. You do need to look at money as an important tool to achieve your financial goals which might lead you to the point of where money is a goal to be pursued.

However, beyond that number too, shunning money is not an option, according to me. You can do wonderful things with money if you have the right intent which will make you a much better possessor of it than anyone else. The problem is when the race for that money becomes the sole reason for it as well. Keep sight of your core factors in life and make money a by-product. Whenever you think you have more than enough, find means to use it as a tool to create value for people around you. It is a very narrow path to walk but when the reasons are right, people find a way.

What are your thoughts on this prickly topic? Let me know in the comments below.

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