Friday, July 4, 2014

Our Relationship with Money - Thoughts and Interviews

I have always had a very uneasy relationship with money. In the beginning I was probably scared of it thanks to my childhood beliefs that money is a bad thing and the root cause of all evil. Of course, we all believed we were on the side of the good which was the poverty stricken side - I wonder why. Over time it changed from fear to suspicion to frustration to some other emotions I cannot explain. Suffice to say that today i have reached a stage when I can keep money just long enough but there is always a tearing hurry to get it out of my pocket and spend it.

Never have I loved money. It was always a stranger, a useful and beautiful stranger whose attentions were bestowed on me only when i genuinely made an effort to grab its attention. Perhaps I never considered myself worthy of it, perhaps I never thought I wanted a relationship with it. Whatever be the case, it always stayed in its space, and I, in mine. If it bestowed all its love on me I don't know what I would do - would I hug it and kiss it and shower all my love on it or would I merely look at it and feel a rising ache inside, now what do i do with it.
Poster outside Ramakrishna Mission, Hyderabad

But I do believe that the time has come to explore my relationship with money. It is not the ideal I know nor is my existence where most of my money lies in someone else's pockets - owed to me but not with me. Assets that come my way I give away because I know not what to do with them. More disturbingly I find that all things that hint at comfort and luxury, get me bothered, get lost, get out of my space. They sense my discomfort, my displeasure and they find it better to leave my space. I know its time to find out why and address this situation.

I have decided to meet a few of my friends who seem to have a love affair going on with money. I asked S the other day, the first of my respondents. His face lit up.

S, on money
'I love money. I do everything for money. I love accumulating money. I want to be the richest man in the world.'

He continued.

'I am happy when my bank balance improves. I feel sad and fearful when it decreases. All that I do, I do if I think it will help me earn more money.'

I cannot find a better stated position of love. If money were to be a women and the object of his love, it would certainly smile favorably at him.

Would you do anything to acquire money?
"The dilemma comes up but one plays within the rules. I will not do anything illegal certainly but I will make my own rules when principles clash."

He said.
"It's better to be clear about money. Money is about clarity, about being honest in your want. One should know one's value and say it. If you are not clear that you want it, it will not come to you."

I can understand how much it means not by his words but by the energy that came into the conversation as he spoke. I suppose money is also about energy, about creative energy. It is like water and will respond to like minds - those that are flexible, open and hungry for it. Even the gods prefer those who pray for them single mindedly. Thanks S.

KPC, on money
'Like women, I chase it. But I do not feel the need to own it. I enjoy the chase and then give it away.'
'Perhaps I am scared of it. The few times I have tried to acquire it for myself, I have had bad experiences - accidents etc. I am more comfortable passing it on. I do not think I can hold it and control it.'

KPC was surprisingly clear and honest in his account. I know for a fact that money has not been his friend, though he attracts it. It always passes by to someone else.

RR on money
I never thought about money really. If  I see it approaching I am already thinking of distributing it among my friends and well wishers.'

Do you think you are not worthy of it?

'Perhaps. But I feel that they deserve it more than I.'

Would you not think that it is disrespectful to money that you do not welcome it, give it respect and dignity and instead distribute it like some cheap stuff among those who may not even be worthy of it and who may not respect it?

'Maybe there is a point there. Unless we give it due respect and dignity, welcome it and show our enthusiasm to receive it, money may not really be enthused to come to us.'

DG on money
'I have come from a very humble background so I really know the value of money. My situation was such that I did not have a suitcase to take with me to the US and I was scheduled to leave the next day!

I have heard people say 'Money can never make you happy.' You know what I always thought I'd rather have the money and be miserable.

I respect money. I use it to help others. I invest well and I don't throw it around. It is important to me to be able to do stuff with money.

I have always had this feeling that I was worth it. That I could get as much as I wanted. I still feel the same way. My best days are to come.

From my early days when I would haggle hard for money, I have become slightly more qualitative these days. I don't just go for the money - now its the whole experience.

AP on money
This was one very interesting take on the relationship with money.
'I look at money from two sides - supply and demand. On the supply side you are limited by your worth. By that I mean what you think you are worth and not what you are really worth. When you think you are worth it, you get the right value for your service or product or whatever you are offering for the exchange.

On the demand side i.e. my ability to use the money, I think the power of money is pretty much the power to kill an ant. By this I mean that we do not use a super power to kill an ant, you may not even have a need to kill an ant, until it bites you. Unless something is causing you discomfort there is no need to unleash the power of money on it.'

I loved the way AP segregated the two. Most times the power it gives, is the discomfiting part of money. How should I use it is the question? But when one looks at it as the power to kill an ant, one releases all pressure. In fact you could live a very simple life if you keep that perspective and not feel the pressure at all. Wonderful. It is the way most conservative banks and institutions would think.

'You know, I think money does not flow to you just because you are worth it. It is guarded at all times by those who possess it. You will have to put in work to unlock the locks and let it flow to you. Unlocking and letting the guard down of those who will give you the money, can happen through various portals that are unlocked by emotions - greed, love, anger. You have to put in that effort to get the money to flow to you.'

I found that interesting. It is a creative process and certainly money flows to the most exciting stories. it will not flow out of its own volition to the undeserving, the uninterested and the unimaginative.

AP quoted Ayn Rand from Atlas Shrugged - 'Money is nothing but value for goods and services exchanged.'

'It is pretty close to business philosophy. 
What is the value offered? 
Who will pay for it?
Why will they pay for it?'

AP said he always felt he would and could make money even when he was not. He had a healthy approach to money - he always felt he was above it (as in always felt worthy and capable of it) and could create and generate it at will.  I told him that Swami Vivekananda had a similar quote - that man created money an therefore he should be the one controlling money and not otherwise. A sound money consciousness then AP has, and a wonderful interpretation of his fine and original thoughts on it.

'I do feel that I am possibly slacking off when I do not need to. Need to spur myself on.'

AP said that line, and then thought about why there was the need to make more money, when there is enough. Tough question and he gave me one of the very best answers to it.
'I need to make more to stay relevant,' he said before he went away.
Fantatsic stuff.

KSD on money
'You know I grew up in a family that was well connected, respected and living in fame and wealth. But when the patriarch passed away we realised that the coffers were empty. For years I worked as a freelancer and spent my earnings with a vengeance. Almost as if I was getting back at my parents and grandparents. You spent all you earned and I will do the same,' he said.

'How did it change? I was coaxed to appear for a job interview in 1991. In an era when MBAs were getting 3,000 as starting salary I said I wanted 10,000 for a designers job. People said I was craz. My Dad convinced me to reduce my price. I stuck to it. The chap who took my interview called me and said they'd pay 7500. I said I will not settle for less than 10000. They agreed.'

I know what he is saying. As a fresh Engineering graduate and MBA, my first job paid me 2500. My second paid me 3000. Same time. Must have taken some self confidence or money consciousness to say that.

'For the first time I had surplus and wanted to save. I started saving and by the time I was married, I had some money put away. My wife was approving of my bank account at that time.'

'Until two years ago I'd worry about where the money is going to come from etc but one fine day I gave up worrying about it. I don't give a damn anymore. It is easy for me to give up an asset worth a crore and a half to my loved ones and not think of it as a loss. I am much at ease now. It will flow I know. I think I have sorted out my equation with money.'

I will keep adding stuff to this blog, after more interviews. Anyone of you can do the same in your comments.

1 comment:

Rajendra said...

This is an interesting question. I am ambivalent about it. I am fairly certain that we don't use it well when we have a lot of it. Whether to put in effort to make more of it- yes, if it can make life more interesting. If not, better lead an interesting life without a lot of it. My student days in the US were very interesting at one sixth the income compared to when I was a prof there. I guess, an interes- ting life is the goal. Money may play a role or it may not.