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When I Had Plenty of Money, But Not Much Wealth

Most of what we think we know about people with a lot of money – the enviable lifestyle of the rich and famous – comes from television, movies and novels. A lot of it is inaccurate.

Apart from the happiness that is showcased, financially well-to-do people have their own set of concerns – uncertainty over their relationships, anxiety about their children, fear of isolation and, of course, fear of losing their financial wealth.

In fact, I have known plenty of such “poor rich” people over the last few years, who have lots of money and assets…but not much else.

They are financially wealthy but emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally and even socially, bankrupt.

Imagine your own life. If you own one big house (or even five) but you live in an unhealthy, stressed, over-worked, sleep-deprived, over-medicated body that’s going to die twenty or thirty years too soon (as many do), are you really wealthy?

So maybe health equals wealth.

Or if you’re a millionaire but you live in an unhealthy marriage with a spouse you haven’t spoken (heartily) to for a year and kids who never see you invest time into their lives, are you really rich or do you just have lots of money?

So maybe time equals wealth.

Of course the answer is completely dependent on the criteria by which we personally evaluate wealth and therefore the answer will be different for all of us.

For the Love of Money
At the start of the last year of my job as a stock market analyst in 2010, my annual salary was Rs 2,200,000 (read again, and please calm down your “how-could-you-leave-this-job” feeling).

Compare this with my starting annual wage of Rs 144,000 in 2003 (I still remember my “but-I-am-an-MBA” feeling), and you know how your financial wealth can compound in a stock market job (my CAGR was 48%).

Anyways, I was 32 years old then, owned a house and a car of my own, and had no debts to repay – so overall, financially well-off.

But then, I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink – I was addicted. So, while a Rs 30,000 annual raise in 2004 thrilled me, I was disappointed in 2010 at receiving just a Rs 300,000 annual hike.


It was at a casual coffee meeting (sometime in 2010) with a financially well-off friend who worked as a relationship manager at a foreign bank that I realized the limitations of unlimited wealth.

“Why are you recommending this XYZ stock to your clients? It’s a dud business!” I told him after he showed me the latest research report his bank’s equity team had prepared.

He replied, “Boss, I don’t have the capacity to think about my clients. All I’m concerned with is how this benefits my company.”

“But what will you and your company lose if you don’t recommend such stocks to people?” I asked.

“A chance to make a lot of new money!” pat came his reply.

I felt as if that statement was a punch in my gut. “This man was afraid of losing money,” I asked myself, “…despite all that he had?”

This friend of mine was already going through a bad relationship with his wife and kids, carried an unhealthy body, and had gone alcoholic (it was maybe my 10th meeting with him to talk him back into a good life). But even this ended on a not-so-good note.

Thankfully for me, despite my little addiction for more money, I had a good equation with my wife and kids, kept okay (not great) health, and never touched alcohol (or any such killer addiction).

So this 10th meeting with my friend gave me a great perspective on how to look at financial wealth and its equation with things that were not material (esp. health and relationships).

And, as they say, the rest is history.

The Cost of Chasing Money
In chasing financial wealth, the cost people pay is, well, their own self. They seem to become their business, their titles, their money, their assets, and their achievements.

Their unquenchable quest for money and perceived status more often than not creates an abysmal situation in their lives.

What they do and what they earn and own becomes “who they are”. And as long as their identity is completely tied into their financial wealth, they will always be insecure and miserable because all that wealth is temporary.

Through all the senseless pursuit of money, relationships begin to suffer. Too much time is spent on working harder and harder to earn more. The loved ones are compensated with material possessions instead of quality time, nurture and tough love.

Yes, a big bank account can go hand in hand with these “other types” of wealth but so often, it doesn’t.

Maybe some of us need to change that criteria.

Luckily, I changed it with a cup of coffee in 2010. And now, I am wealthier…truly wealthier.

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About the Author

Vishal Khandelwal is the founder of Safal Niveshak. He works with small investors to help them become smart and independent in their stock market investing decisions. He is a SEBI registered Research Analyst. Connect with Vishal on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Lakshminarayanan says:

    One of my favourite lines is that of Socrates “I go to the market to see the things that I can do without”

  2. Great, Vishal. For beginning to discover what is true wealth, and sharing your experiences with us. All the best to all of us who are in this journey. In India, prosperity is known as aishwaryam. This encompasses not just money, but many other attributes (about 18 I think), some of which you have mentioned in your post (like health, relationship within family, friendships). It is well rounded prosperity, having all that we need, no less. And this is accomplished not by any wild pursuit, but by welcoming and nurturing goodness around us, and letting goodness compound in our mind.

    Regards,
    Rajaram

  3. Great Post Vishal. Balance is the key in relationships, food, wealth etc. Keep up these “real-wealth” multipliers in your site.

    Regards
    Leslie

  4. Good one Vishal. As you write this, I stand in the same position as you were in 2010. Standing and staring at the two cross roads in front of me. One road leads me to – Time with family and self, building meaningful relationships and being your trueself. Other road leads me to – Selling myself and my time for more money, lots of stress and lack of meaningful relationships.

    Only difference I can find is, I am not yet in a financial position to say goodbye to my job ( I don’t own a home yet) and have a family to run (dependent parents, wife and kid)

    I am thrilled to have come across your website by chance (thanks to my interest in value investing) and know a person like you (very rare to find). It will be good if you can write and share your views how others can also come out of this rat race, yet be financial sustainable and lead a meaningful life !

    Regards,
    Vinay

  5. Rahul Kashyap says:

    Thats all nice to say and talk. But all this blind money chasing proves its worth when you have a dearest family member ill, needing 20 lakh immediately for treatment. Or, when your child has qualified for MBA in Harvard and you dont have the 50 lakh for payment. And very often, when you want to take a family trip to Europe, but cant fund 5 lakh

    • Every person of reasonable judgment would accept the importance of money for events like immediate treatment of family member, or Harvard mba for our children etc.

      But in life, BALANCE is another important thing. Sometimes our short sightedness makes us disregard this critical factor of happiness. And if in earning money we loose our life’s balance then also we will be miserable.

      P.S. Pursue money (but remember money is merely symbolic for good work we do for others) with all your strength and intelligence because without money life would become miserable and we might have to live other on people’s charity.

      P.P.S: But why make life a misery by pursuing money with incorrect means and at cost of several other important things of life.

      Simply adopt balanced and fair means in your perusal of money.

      • Sorry but I dont agree. Would you give the same advice to a poor rickshaw driver ? To maintain balance, not to work like a maniac. And what happens when he doesnt happen to have a lot of money and meets with an accident ?

        • Hi Rahul, you do have a good point there. I really appreciate your pragmatic view. And God knows how much I wish to develop more of that pragmatism in myself. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Money,wealth,power,love,success,happiness etc are all patterns or attachments created by the mind to satisfy an individual’s ego while he is alive.Once you die none of these will come along with you.

    If one thinks he has a sufficient amount of any one of these, he would naturally underrate the other ones.That is the nature of mind and how it works to satisfy its ego.Its a kind of survival mechanism.

    Some may dismiss money as just a piece of paper but it has very real utility in this world for many people and is essential to their happiness.If someone could renounce everything in this world except food,water,clothes and shelter then I would agree that such a person doesn’t run after money.The rest are all hypocrites who think they don’t care much about money but in reality spent their time chasing the same money.

    Just think about it…this site is about value investing and the purpose of value investing is to earn returns in excess of what is offered from Saving bank FD’s.Is this not chasing extra money??.Why not stop thinking about investing for excess returns and spent this time also in doing something some activity which you think is more important than money??

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rakesh!

      I have been misunderstood here. This post was not anti-money but on treating money as an addiction and forgetting about the more important things in life. Of course, everything is temporary, but life, I believe, is about living happily in the present (and when yo chase money, you are always following the future).

      Also, the core idea of Safal Niveshak is NOT to help people earn excess returns from the stock market, but to help them avoid the mistakes that cause them to lose their hard-earned savings. Good returns are just a result.

      And yes, the idea is also to spread the word about doing something worthwhile for the betterment of the world, and encouraging more people to do so.

      • Totally confused here. You say chasing money is about the future and one shud live in the present. It automatically means stop chasing money, which i believe is working hard, reading a lot of stuff, saving up, try to gauge the future. I dun think these are unhealthy things. In fact one shud do a lot more if this stuff.
        Secondly u say if we avoid mistakes that may cause us to lose our savings, returns automatically follow. I dun think dats true. Today you can invest in a lot of stocks where you are guaranteed of not losing your money, but also guaranteed of not making gud money. Public sector banks for example. The goal of any investor should be maximum returns with a high likelihood of getting the money back. Thats why investors read and analyse a lot.

        • Please read one of the last lines in the post – “A big bank account can go hand in hand with these “other types” of wealth but so often, it doesn’t.”

          My idea is not to ask people to not work hard to earn their money, but to not work so hard because of addiction of money that they sacrifice the other more important things in life.

          Your statement – “Today you can invest in a lot of stocks where you are guaranteed of not losing your money, but also guaranteed of not making gud money. Public sector banks for example.”

          There are no stocks where you can have the guarantee of “not” losing money. At least, I do not believe in this theory.

          • I don’t really have anything to disagree with your opinions in this post, neither have I misunderstood. I am just trying to add another point of view.

            What you call as addiction is only from your point of view based on your life experiences and frame of mind.it is not an absolute truth. If you try to think from the point of view of the other person, to his mind earning that extra money could be a source of great satisfaction or a sense of achievement in his life. Even though he suffers from poor work life balance it is the price he is willing to pay to get what his mind really wants.

  7. Vishal. This one is one masterpiece article.

    I am a NRI and fortunately (you can say ‘mis’) associated with some of the filthy rich people in the country that am working. Thankfully they come for my advise.

    I am amazed to learn that a person who owns 4 Mercs and goes to shopping all around the world for buying dresses cries every day. This extremely talented person is plagued with poor health, very short temparment and emotionally so week. What else one can say when this person says ‘my parents’ are against me. Although in mid 40s, still not married. The good part is, this person is thinking about personal life now by quitting very high profile job.

    Another friend of mine who drives Ferrari sports car is also plagued with poor health, divorced after 2 yrs of marriage, could not find another partner for the last 3 years, father brought in step mom and so on. In a family of father and 3 sons, all are divorced. This affluent person drinks coffee daily from starbucks and eating food in restaurents eversince he is divorced. He was admitted to Hospital recently for some severe infection and I was the only visitor for him in 3 days. No one from family visited and felt so bad on seeing him on Hosp bed.

    Deprived of money during my childhood, I dreamt of living the super luxury lifestyle. But learnt it in hardway that ‘money is not everything’. While I earn a great salary (CEO level), am yet to drink wine/beer, exercise every day and have wonderful family with two kids.

    • Dear Krish,

      Wow! What a revealing note from you. Your note should be published in the front page of the TOI, so that all people young and old can learn from it – and then make their own wise choices! Some people here argued about money’s utility. It is certainly useful. But in order to save money in order to pay for an impending cancer (are we all now planning for all the worst things that can happen to us in this world), are we going to chuck away present well being? That is the question.

      By all means, earn money, build wealth. However, use this to also build overall well being, particularly in oneself.

      Regards,
      Rajaram

  8. Great web site. Lots of useful information here. I am sending it to some friends ans additionally sharing in delicious.
    And naturally, thanks for your effort!

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