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Work Less = Earn Less = Spend Less = Live More

“How can you be so kanjoos (miser) to be wearing a t-shirt worth just Rs 250?” a friend ridiculed me recently, while showing off his latest Van Heusen shirt worth Rs 2,000.

“Think whatever you want of me, but I am like that only,” I told him. “If I can get a t-shirt worth Rs 250 that I can use for a year, why should I buy anything expensive that would last almost the same time?”

“Wow, and you call this cheapness as enjoying life. Huh!” he continued.

Well, here’s the equation that defines my life as of now…

Work Less = Earn Less = Spend Less = Live More

Just a couple of years back, before I quit my job, my life’s equation read like this…

Work More = Earn More = Spend More = Live Less

When you work in a job, and especially when the job relates to the stock market, you are expected to work 60+ hours a week at the barest minimum.

The unsaid agreement my employer had with me was simple – “The more you work, the more I will pay you.”

The unsaid agreement I had with myself was also simple – “The more I will work or pretend to work, the more I will earn, and the more I can spend during weekends.”

In effect, I worked a 60-hour workweek to enjoy life during the 8-hour weekend.

You may be living, or may have been through, a similar life as well.

Before you start cursing yourself on why you are living such a life, like I did two years back, read this amazing post which reveals that your lifestyle is now no more in your hands…it is under someone else’s control.

That “someone” is “big businesses”, who are deliberately cultivating and nurturing in us a lifestyle of unnecessary spending.

As the author writes, “Companies in all kinds of industries have a huge stake in the public’s penchant to be careless with their money. They will seek to encourage the public’s habit of casual or non-essential spending whenever they can.”

He then mentions something so critical that we miss seeing in the rigours of our daily lives…

Big companies didn’t make their millions by earnestly promoting the virtues of their products, they made it by creating a culture of hundreds of millions of people that buy way more than they need and try to chase away dissatisfaction with money.

We buy stuff to cheer ourselves up, to keep up with the Joneses, to fulfill our childhood vision of what our adulthood would be like, to broadcast our status to the world, and for a lot of other psychological reasons that have very little to do with how useful the product really is. How much stuff is in your basement or garage that you haven’t used in the past year?

This vicious cycle of working more to earn more, spend more, and live less is quite simple to understand.


The solution to get out of this vicious cycle is equally easy, only if one has the willingness to work on it.


Of course, you don’t need to leave your job right away to live a life like this. And you don’t need to slog till 40 or 50 to live a life like this.

“I plan to slog till 40 and then retire to live happily ever after,” Hrithik Roshan says in the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

To this, Katrina Kaif replies, “But how do you know that you will live till 40!”

A deafening silence follows.

You see, we spend precious years of our lives slogging at work, then stay tired, and ignore our health and families. All this because we are always in the pursuit of a lot of money that we can spend in whatever little “free” time we enjoy during weekends.

And, in this pursuit of spending to “enjoy” life during weekends, we forget the real meaning of spending quality time with ourselves and our families.

“Go, get a life instead of worrying about your job and money!” my wife often advised me while I was in two minds of leaving my high-paying job to pursue my low-paying passions.

Thanks to my lucky stars, I took her advice seriously.

In believing what Bertrand Russell wrote in his magnificent essay – In Praise of Idleness – eighty years back, my story as of now is that I work 70% lesser than what I was working two years back, earn 30% lesser, spend 50% lesser, and live 500% more.

Russell wrote it in such a compelling manner…

In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day…there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion.

Since men will not be tired in their spare time, they will not demand only such amusements as are passive and vapid. At least one per cent will probably devote the time not spent in professional work to pursuits of some public importance, and, since they will not depend upon these pursuits for their livelihood, their originality will be unhampered, and there will be no need to conform to the standards set by elderly pundits.

Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever.

A lot of people around me think that because I don’t seem to work and that I’m cheap (simple clothes, small car etc.), I don’t really enjoy life.

In fact, it’s just the opposite. Because I don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy life, I don’t need to spend a lot of time getting a lot of money.

I have no right to advise you on how you should live your life, but I just want to share that the mantra that has worked for me so magnificently is insanely simple…

Work Less = Earn Less = Spend Less = Live More

In simple words, to get more out of life, I am willing to settle for less.

Less work. Less money. Less spending. Less emotion with money. More time for life.

At the end of it, my bank account may still seem inadequate for all that money can help me buy, but I know my life will be far, far richer.

I wish the same for you.

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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. What you said is true ….people are spending money to impress others ,those who do’t love them any way..we can enjoy the life with your choice,then only we can be happy.

  2. Excellent article!

  3. There is one more equation that comes to my mind….

    Work More = Earn more(in most cases) = Spend Less(mostly likely,because most of time you are at work) = Live More

    You may be wondering how its possible,but we have people like Buffett doing it..and the reason is they enjoy their work 🙂

    • Well said Rakesh! 🙂

      Buffett surely tap dances to work. But I am not sure if he would be my role model as far as family life is concerned, especially given that he reveals in his biography “Snowball” that his first wife Susie Buffett’s departure from their lives “was preventable”.

      He says, “It was definitely 95% my fault … I just wasn’t attuned enough to her, and she’d always been perfectly attuned to me. She kept me together for a lot of years … It shouldn’t have happened.”

      Also, their separation was veiled in rumors of infidelity on both parts, Susie with her tennis coach and Warren with Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham.

      These are some of the risks of working too much I guess. 🙂

      But yes, I fully agree with you equation…just that I don’t see people following this route. Regards.

      • Hi Vishal,
        Success always comes at a cost. Work-life balance is a myth in my view. For the so called successful people work always take precedence over family. Once they retire then they become wiser in terms of work-life balance 🙂

        You need to define success for yourself without comparing with any of the media hero and then you can have life as per your terms.

        Regards,
        Raj

  4. Nice Article Vishal. I believe to understand this philosophy first one needs to undergo a psychological change. One has to recognize and accept his/her current position only then this is possible. If one hasn’t experienced pain of overwork then one cannot follow this path. What you have said is preached in this land for thousands of years. The last generation had a overdose of these things and it created a craving for money for new generation. Anyway overall nice article. But I am not sure how many people will really follow this path. This also depends on your other half. If other half is not ready then you cannot do anything.

    • Thanks Salil! Yes, there are major psychological changes to switch from one equation to the other. It’s more to do with letting it go, which is a difficult choice to make for most of us.

      And yes, your other half really needs to be supportive, or you would be making his/her life miserable. So I would say that luck plays a big role in this switch. Regards.

  5. Dear Vishal,

    Income is 30% less now- are you referring to active or passive income as current income?

    • Dear Muthu, this will be purely active income. Passive income is approx. 200% higher due to higher dividends + some royalties on my writing.

      But overall, passive income is still a small (but rising) component. Regards.

  6. Raghu Raman says:

    Very unique way of thinking. In my opinion, it all depends on the “mind set”.

  7. One more excellent piece of advice from you Vishal, the true hero of your life. Both, your writing and the article you referred are of great value and they speak the true worth of actual life. It reminds of “Work to Live”, not “Live to work”. I hope many people will make an effort to understand this concept and make a better life.

    I know one needs to be lucky, but then this luck can be created by putting right efforts towards the results I want to achieve. What if partner is not supportive, one should work towards it, what so may to get support from her, put that effort is what I believe in, the effort is definitely worth.

  8. Hi Vishal,
    Wonderful article and came at the right time.
    There are two thoughts which are equally strong: 1. The one which you mentioned in this article. and, 2. Love money, The Secret mindset. I see some benefits in both these thoughts.
    Frankly, my heart is still with the first thought, but the brain and the present situation is easily vulnerable to second thought.
    How to decide your own philosophy and stick to it then?

    Regards,
    Avadhut

  9. Nice article, got me thinking.

    However, I want to understand how can you make your life meaningful or fulfilling when you don’t wanna spend any money?

    Won’t you be bored with yourself?

    If you choose to read books, then you will have to spend money.

    If you choose to watch movies, then you will have to spend money.

    If you wanna travel, even if on budget, you will have to spend money.

    • Thanks Shiv!

      I still read a lot of books, most are unread from my existing library, and some are borrowed and rented from a library.

      I still watch movies, but now I go for morning shows on weekdays, paying Rs 70 for something that would cost me Rs 300 on a weekend.

      I still travel a lot, and most of it is budget travel.

      So it’s not about not spending, but about spending less, by living a minimalist life instead of searching for happiness only on weekends 🙂

  10. Well written.
    However, this is a point of view which some would subscribe to, not all.
    The world in general is not foolish to work more and earn more and contribute in its own way to progress. In fact because of thousands who believed in this got humanity to where it is. As with any concept (work more = earn more, work less = ear less etc) there are pros and cons.
    In fact a lot of people, as per me, strike a balance at some point or the other between material wellness, physical wellness and emotional/ spiritual wellness.
    Yes there is a myth created by the world at large that work more earn more blah blah but it is not as if that is all merely a spoof.
    I would differ. To me each one has to reckon, given an opportunity, what and how much he or she is willing to take on and for what returns.
    The reality also is as I read in the paper “Life is about Learning, Earning and Yearning.”

    • Indeed, Sudhir! For one, the opportunity cost is different and so is the chosen path. There is no point leaving the path where you heart lies and regretting your decision later.

      It’s all about living in the now. And everyone’s choices would differ.

      BTW, “Life is about Learning, Earning and Yearning.” is wonderful thought. Regards.

  11. I do see your point. However, (and I am not saying this to necessarily make a counterpoint and be a jerk on your blog which I enjoy reading from time to time) spending less basically is a subjective term. For you Rs. 250 is spending less, for some other guy Rs. 250 is spending more. By earning more, a person can change their spending capacity and their emotional responses to different numbers.

    Being a miser cannot be healthy either. If you worry too much about saving or not spending more, you can invite a lot of stress in your life. I guess the age old principle of “balance” is the key here. Granted, morning shows are cheaper. But how many mornings do we feel like watching a movie? If the library from where you loan your books is far away, reading each book would expose you to more stress.

    It’s hard being immune to our environment whether we admit it or not. Which includes keeping up with the Joneses, sending kids to the “right” schools, driving the cheapest “right” car we can afford, and pretending to ourselves that life is fulfilling.

    • Yes Shiv, as you said it rightly, “balance” is the key here. And then it’s purely a matter of personal choices and what makes us happy.

      I read an article recently that talked about the biggest regrets people have while they are dying. The biggest regret, as per a study, is – “Wish I had not worked so hard all my life and had not missed my children’s youth and my partner’s companionship.”

      To some extent, this may guide us to change our lifestyle so that we don’t have any regrets in the future. But than, I think it is not really wise to spend our whole lives working towards a regret-free final days.

      It’s better to create a balance “now” and make choices that make us happy “now”.

      The ultimate idea should be (and again this is my personal view) – because I don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy life, I don’t need to spend a lot of time getting a lot of money. For the biggest problem with running the rat race is that, even if you win, you are still a rat. 🙂

      So yes, I fully agree with you, there has to be a balance. Regards.

  12. Sudhakar V Lingam says:

    Hi Vishal,

    Super write-up. Thanks for that. I am seeing mine in your write-up. To follow that the one should have guts and conscious not to fall in love with unnecessary things/matters.

    Thanks again for your time sharing such a wonderful thoughts / mantras.

    – Sudhakar

  13. Vishal,
    Interesting observations! I chose to tread along the same path 15 years ago without regrets. Instead of a job with regular timings in a newspaper, I opted to work outstation which lets me choose my timings though the 6 pm deadline remains sacrosanct.

    Most days, I get to do what I want, read, write, go to the movies, attend cultural events since one does not have to undergo the grind of commuting daily in Mumbai.

    The money is a lot less than if I took up a team leadership position at a city newspaper, but what the heck you cannot get everything in life. Over the years, I am teaching myself to depend mainly on my passive income – chiefly dividends – treating my salary as capital.

    The idea is to be totally free from the constraints of a regular job a few years down the line preferably when the next bull market comes around, that is.

  14. Very nicely put Vishal. You have an extremely good ability to put your thoughts across in simple words.

    Most of us lead our life by making others having better perception about us. This never leads to a fulfilling life in my view.

    Regards,
    Raj

  15. This is a nice article.

    Whenever I am at my hometown in Uttar Pradesh I do variety of activities and enjoy the freedom from work.While I was out of work I definitely spent less on frivolous things.

    When I go to work back in Delhi (after my leaves), I tend to spend more eating out, seeing movies, and on little things here and there. Since I have so little time for enjoyable activities(after working 9-10 hrs in Weekdays), I tend to cram more into my weekends, Spending more money in weekends. That is spending more in less time.

    This is because since I have less time, I’m willing to spend more money for entertainment and being happy .

    • It needs to be defined by each one what “happiness” is.
      To some it is earning more and more and more, and this to me is great as long as it is legal and ethical. To such a person who chases wealth those who are content are losers who did not fight or never took chances.
      To each his own.
      I was reading a book on philosophy and in that it is asked ‘what is a good government ?’ or ‘what is a good system of governance ?’ and I quite liked the reply ‘where each and do what they want to do without interference or interfering with a similar right of others’.
      Similarly here and in most spheres of life there is no definitive answer. Every person tries to find his own answer.

  16. Anil Kumar says:

    Agreed with each n every point u made in Article and also in Comments. I think you kinda put my thoughts forward. Although it’s totally a subjective matter but people who believe in this, should not feel shy of their habit.

  17. Awesome article!!! I want to quite my job ..but don’t know when it that day will come. I could not leave my job as I have heavy financial commitment as of now…

    Regards,

  18. Hi Vishal,

    Great writeup, liked the post.

    A farmer, Jon Jandai from Thailand talked in Tedx event “Life is Easy“, Yes we complicate it.

    His talk is in line with what you wrote.

    Thanks,
    Umakant

  19. Dear Vishal,

    Again, a profound article from you. Day after day, wonder how you come up with this.

    Only one issue with your thoughts here, which is “how many people have the option of working less”? Most corporates would treat people who want to slow down with suspicion. Corporates thrive on competition, which means more and more and more…. Anyone who wants to slow down and attain perspective in life, will be rejected by the corporates. So such people have to be freelancers, or entrepreneurs. But freelancers and entrepreneurs have to work harder to establish themselves, and face the stress of irregular and unstable income (especially if they are not brilliant people, or people close to the corridors of power).

    So slowing down is not an option for most people (except maybe Public sectors). Work less is not possible for an employee, even if he works less, he has to be adept at politics to manage his environment.

    Slowing down is only possible for those who can create an adequate income stream by doing valuable things in limited time, rather than working hard. But this needs something exceptional, not everyone has the attributes to contribute BIG with minimal work.

    Regards,
    Rajaram

    • Thanks Rajaram!

      Yes, it’s difficult to change gears completely. But if people can understand the importance of spending less, they will remove a lot of stress related to work from their lives.

      So the equation does not always start with “Work less”. It can also start with “Spend less”.

      After all, it’s a circle, and circles have no beginnings and ends.

      So yes, as you said, it takes time. But if you want to live such a life, it’s important to prepare much in advance.

      With preparation, a man/woman can achieve anything he/she wants to achieve in life.

      Regards,
      Vishal

      • Indeed spend less and yearn lesser could be another way to put it rather than work less and earn less.
        Preparation and planning too need a margin of safety so that the path is smoother and bumps can be factored in.
        I would think education and health (should be part of preparation and planning) would be large expenses for most of us and I would appreciate some thoughts on how one can plan and what all is available to plan for this or consider sensitising readers about this.

  20. Hi vishal,

    Thought provoking article. Nice to read that there are still people who are contrarian to most people view. Just on hilarious note, if people did not spent ( consumption story) , then we would not have had much choice to dabble in stocks.

    Regards
    Ajith

  21. Shreenatha Narayana says:

    Vishal,
    Excellent philosophy and very well written. Thanks so much!
    I am currently reading “Four Hour Work Week” and some parts go well with this.

    I do appreciate that you will be going against the flow and it takes a lot of mental strength stand the pressure, while enjoying your life!

    Hope to get there in some shape and form! I am trying a few things! After some success, I will post my experience.

    Warm Regards
    Shreenath

    PS: Hope to meet you next time you are in Bangalore. I am not around this weekend.

  22. R.K.Chandrashekar says:

    There is the well known 80/20 principle-to achieve more with less.It says that a small number of causes, inputs or effort usually leads to a majority of the results, outputs or rewards. Well, 80% is not sacrosanct, having said that, it applies practically everywhere :
    1. 80% of business from 20% of the clients.
    2. 20% of the companies in my portfolio contribute 80% of the value!!
    3. 80% of the time we spend with 20% of our friends/relatives!!
    4. 80% of achievement and happiness happens in 20% of the time.
    If we apply this principle in life, you could work less, earn and enjoy more
    Please read the books, Living the 80 20 way and the 80 20 Principle by Richard Koch

  23. Right Article at Right Time.

    I stay 50km away at outskirts of Mumbai city. I used to travel 4.5 hrs daily in crowded train to reach my office where I used to work for 9 hrs. This was my routine from last 12 years. Recently I have left my MNC job where my take home monthly salary was in lacs. Now I am working for 2 small firms as business associate & mostly opeartes from my home. Earn 50% less than earlier but gets lot of time to live life.
    I have stopped spending on luxrious & branded lifestyle goods & enjoying life from other work which is my passion.

    Your article came at right time for reading, which strengthen my will to live life as I want.

    Thanks & keep posting such articles.

  24. Nice Article Vishal 🙂

  25. Nice article, and yes, great thought.

    Here is another way to look at this (other than the more vs less):
    Do we want to prepare the ground to be happy sometime in future by working hard/earning money/learning the right skills/being in the right place/… , or do we want to be happy now?

    Most of us, including me of course, fall in the first category – always getting prepared to be happy in an unforeseen future – like the Hrithik Roshan character. For eg: how many are in their current job, because they enjoy it, versus the number of people who are in a job now because it would help one find an even better job in the future.

    And yes, we need to prepare for a good future too – but at what cost? Health, family, quality of life – is it worth? Of course, the choice is personal.

  26. Vinod Saini says:

    Thanks Vishal for the excellent article & your philosophy of life. We are similar in our outlook. The only difference is that I worked for 29 years with various MNC’s & now focussing on recovering back what I lost.

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