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Saving money for a gold casket?

A late-night conversation with an old friend struck a chord in the cacophony of my thoughts, ‘We are being made to earn and invest money’ without even realizing that we might never get anything out of it while ‘we are at it’.

Open LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, the people who have started to ‘think like monks’, well realistically I could never comprehend the fact that how could someone living a low life of an urban slave with occasional moments of disillusion influenced by some or the other form of intoxication (read whiskey) can think like a monk. Would you consider living a busy ‘modern’ life with many drugs including salary as one of them and at the same time contemplate ‘thinking like a monk’? Does it happen though, as is sold to us through media?

Who is a monk is our first question right, he is not some public figure who just drapes a robe and lives among the ‘dead’ who pretend to be alive after wearing a tie and blazer with Monday blues. A monk or ascetic is someone who has denounced worldly pleasures and has devoted himself to the pristine truth, the only truth and is on the path of seeking nothing but the truth. But, here we are living in the same world with PR and marketing giants who would do anything to make you believe that you could or essentially in their words should think like a monk while you are enslaved by the world.

Did you hear or see these self-help gurus tell you to think like a ‘President’ or a ‘pole dancer’? I know both of them put together in the same sentence sound ridiculous at best, but the same case is with the fact that a monk who lives his life in absolute solitude at best with the company of his fellow monks eats barely 2 square meals, sleeps on the floor and not some orthopedic mattress should not be compared with fellow living creatures just because the former and latter both breathe, eat and sleep. There is more to a life of a monk than just the ‘thinking part’ but let it be, people are convinced by the idea of thinking like a monk, the industry is thriving in that realm, and people are employed at selling and buying a facade so, let it be.

You might be wondering why did he digress into another topic, but yes this is how life works right, real unscripted conversations happen, you look into the greys and not just the black and white which is sold to you in all those ‘well-researched’ books, podcasts and movies. While we are lost in our thoughts, let’s ponder on the main idea which was introduced.

Did you get your first salary? Are you a student who is working part-time? Did you start investing in a mutual fund at the age of 25?

The premise was fairly simple until a few years ago before the advent of free/low-cost internet by Ambani Ji. You would start working, get a salary, and save a part of it, but would rather invest that saving in any instrument or park it in a conventional fixed deposit. But in the day and age of self-help finance gurus, you must only earn and invest, there are no expenditures. In their words, life is an excel spreadsheet and you have to maintain your balance sheet without any debit.

Don’t buy a house, okay understood! Don’t buy branded clothes, okay hmm understood. Don’t buy a car, okay understood. Don’t go on a trip, okay understood! Don’t go to clubs or restaurants, okay understood! How about breathing Sir? Why don’t we stop taking oxygen and rather invest it in an atmosphere index fund? It will quadruple in a few years then we can start breathing, sounds great! Eh?

Please don’t get me wrong, I am an ardent supporter of savings and investments, but so has been our entire nation, look around you, all our parents and grandparents' generations believed in the idea of savings, they too had a family, went on excursions, bought vehicles and still lived a pretty decent life right? Ah, they never had to care about that dumb excel sheet of life, that is how they lived a fulfilled life that was not centered only around money. The self-help guru’s claim to fame is that they have bestowed upon us the personal finance knowledge which can essentially turn us all into protagonists of famous rags-to-riches stories. Their hypocrisy stems from the fact that they can act like a decent human being in front of the camera whereas the reality suggests that they are nothing short of a bunch of pathological liars.

They teach you why living in a rented house is far better than buying your own while sipping wine in their houses/villas which they bought by selling you fake courses. They teach you to use public transport and bicycle to work, while they need their luxury sedans even for a workout at the gym or maybe a haircut. They also sermon you to travel less and will give you many hacks from their endless lists on how to travel cheaply, but you would never find their Instagram page short of business class flights and five-star hotel stays photo dumps. All of their renditions if looked upon minutely speak rather shout of only one thing and that is HYPOCRISY.

Why do you eat? To curb your hunger and provide nutrients to your body, right? The same applies to almost all facets of life, you don’t earn so you could invest. You earn so you could live a life. A life that is full of experiences, which is about listening to good music, watching great drama, building great friendships, and enjoying the smallest of nuances life has to offer.

If the gods did not sermon you to live a certain life (the Hindu gods did not) and instead left us on our own to figure things out, then why are we trying to emulate robots, life doesn’t revolve around mathematical formulas, everyone is living with their reality, with their own set of problems and are not in the same phase of life which these self help gurus explicitly try not to address.

There might be only one elephant in the room, and that is different for everyone, for someone it might be real financial problems, for someone it might be failed relationships, or for someone it might be a constant bad health condition either of their own or of their close ones. The one shoe fits all kind of financial bits of advice are not helping at all, and that is why we find a clear outrage out there against these gurus.

It is not that whatever they speak is irrelevant, the technical aspects of it do help a lot. But they don’t refrain themselves and instead start explaining to you how to live your life that is where they lose their conviction and our attention and start trying to be a life coach, another fake term invented by some guru suffering from acute narcissism, which we will dissect some other day.

The entire playbook of these self-help finance gurus is deemed to provide a single outcome that is early retirement/ financial retirement/ financial independence or whatever new terms they coin. But their entire playbook rests on the fact that we will live as per the excel sheets and that our end date is almost certain as the last cell in the spreadsheet.

Life doesn’t work like that, especially after being a part of a pandemic that took away many of our close ones, the brutal reality has already struck us. Whatever planning you might have done, someone might have been spending lesser for 30 years and investing for early retirement but a virus took their chance of spending their financial independence and enjoying their life. You can plan however you like but the only crucial thing, which is life and death is not in our hands and no amount of computation on an excel sheet can help us in this regard.

The gods made us like this with emotional intelligence and spared us the excel sheets. Let’s do justice to his creation and live life!

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