‘M’ is for mystery, music, mermaids and… money. Yup, the green stuff…moolah…the thing that some people commit murder for! What is it about this multi-colored note that has everyone acting like Smeagol with the ring? Another ‘m’ – mayhem has been caused in people’s lives in search of money and riches. Families want to marry off their daughters to rich husbands. And this has pre-dated Jane Austen’s time. From birth till their inevitable demise, some people are constantly after the elusive banknote. While some succeed in accumulating it by the bushel, others have to be content with a square meal a day. There is so much inequality in the world when it comes to money. Only a rich person will tell you that money does not matter because they are privileged and can afford to say it. The average Joe or Janardhan is spending every moment of his life chasing a buck.
They say music makes the world go round, but many would differ and say it is money. After all, those with money have the power of choice. The moneyed can buy what they want, and get access to good healthcare, education, and opportunities, whether they are talented or not. With even minuscule amounts of talent, the person with more money has more opportunities. Money is definitely important to survive in this world.
I come from a middle-class family. Most of my family members were professors or advocates. My dad worked in a single company all his life until the company went under. Now, he is a consultant…even at seventy-plus years. My mother is a homemaker.
Since I’m the only “child” (now 46), my parents have rarely denied me what I’ve asked for. That I didn’t ask for too much is a different matter. My childhood was a good time when I finished reading books from library after library at a relatively low cost. Our nuclear family (consisting of my mom, my dad, and me) took a vacation every summer to a hill station in India, or we simply went to Mahabalipuram. I always had new clothes to wear on my birthday. I could buy my friends presents for their birthdays.
My childhood friends and I sold lemonade outside a library and started a club and a library (my home library), for which we would charge other friends 50 paise or so to borrow a book. The fact that no one borrowed books from us is another matter altogether. But we did show signs of entrepreneurship at that young age, even if Archie and his pals inspired us!
Pic credit – Unsplash
I didn’t know how banks worked at that age, but I do remember not speaking much about money with my parents or friends as a child. I was financially prudent then, at least by my estimate. I remember going to book fairs and not buying books to read for pleasure since I could always borrow them from the library. In later years, after I started working, I would buy books that did not interest me and collect an author’s entire works based on my friend liking that author. Those books remain unread even today. Go figure!
What I want to do is write when I feel like it. I’m a moody creature, and many things I have to do don’t interest me. But one has to do what one has to do ‘coz one has to earn money. I remember a friend (a rich one) telling me that it was tacky to talk about money when I was telling her that a neighbor wanted to know how much I earned and that it irked me. Now, in retrospect, I feel that money is an important thing to talk about, at least from time to time and in the right way (whatever that is) with people of all ages. Otherwise, one may develop an unhealthy attitude toward money, either underestimating its importance in one’s life or overestimating it.
My paternal grandfather was a very rich man. We are talking about this house with 30 bedrooms. But by the time my father was born, my paternal grandfather had lost all his money. So, my dad is a cautious man since experience has taught him that money comes today and is gone tomorrow. Since I’ve been an only child and not denied much and I’m a Piscean to boot (who just wants to live like a millionaire even if they aren’t), I was considered one of the “rich, spoilt girls” in high school (at least by one clique’s estimation). I never viewed myself that way. We lived in a big house at the time, but it was on a company lease. On the surface, I suppose I still act like a “rich girl” because I rarely go by bus, always take a cab, and live in a villa, even if it is in the suburbs.
My maternal grandmother was very careful with her money. She thought that my mother was a spendthrift, which was not accurate at all. I don’t believe money grows on trees because I have had to work for it.
I’ve never been very interested in how fixed deposits work or how to invest my money. I buy what I want, and then I have acute panic attacks that I’m going to live a life of penury in my old age, so I check myself. Most of the things I want are books. I’ve never been very interested in cosmetics or jewelry and prefer to wear simple clothes.
I’ve moved with people from all walks of life, be they millionaires or people who work in other people’s homes, and I find that nobody is really happy. The “rich” are unhappy since they sometimes have to compromise on their values while the poor have to struggle to earn a living. The economy is bad as is the market and money is here today, gone tomorrow.
I know I should read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” “Let’s Talk Money” and books like that. But that secret part of my brain, the one that is stubborn and does what it wants, just shuts off. And it is left for another day.
I wouldn’t say I live to earn money. I talk like a rich person and say I live to find my life’s purpose…even if I’m not loaded. “Rich” is very relative. Are you rich if you have crores in your bank, or will a few lakhs do? But I do need money because only with it can I live a comfortable life. If one has to have live-in staff in one’s old age to take care of them, in the absence of a spouse/partner/ companion, one has to fork out a pretty penny. Old-age homes are expensive, as are nurses.
If we want to ensure a “comfortable” retirement income, we need to invest far more than we earn right now, every month until retirement. Of course, the sooner we start saving, the better.
It costs money to hire a cook and house help. There are days when I’ve tried to cook and left the gas on. I could have burned the house down. Some people shouldn’t be allowed near flammables…or behind a driver’s seat. And I know I’m one of them.
Writing brings me a lot of joy. It makes me feel good. But most underpaid writers live a life of poverty. Sadly, the world over, writing is often considered a pastime of the rich and educated and rarely a means to fortune. Many times, people approach writers and editors and ask them to work for free. I always tell my friend, “Would anybody ask a dentist or a plumber to work for free?’ Then why are writers treated so shabbily?” How, indeed, are writers and editors expected to live a good life if they earn so little or not at all? Are they supposed to look back on their choice of subject and regret not aspiring for an MBA from a premier B school when they had the chance? Or, like Jane Austen’s heroines, are they supposed to look for a Mr Darcy or Mr Bingley?
The answer lies in two words: savings and investment. I feel that I must learn more about my finances and how to manage them…for my own good.