Year after year, job after job, it is the same story. Whether the salary is 70K or 150K; whether the hike is 5% or 20%, one keeps complaining how she deserved more. Is there a number that makes you feel safe? Why do we have this constant feeling of being poor?
The concept of wealth is a very subjective one that I have found evolving from one definition to another over time. Feeling wealthy and empowered has very little to do with the actual bank balance (above a minimum threshold you need for basic sustenance) but more with a clear idea of your needs. When you understand your basic needs and the extra comfort buffer you wish on top of that, anything beyond it makes you feel rich. On the other hand, earning a higher amount but not being clear about these needs will never give you a sense of fullness. You will always chase a higher salary and cut extra corners. But whatever you do, you will always find yourself poorer than someone else.
When I was working in corporate America, I earned x amount but would always think before spending and always crib when yearly appraisal happened. There was always someone else to compare with. Finance guys like bankers make more, so I felt poorer. My company did not give as much bonus as my friend’s company did, so I felt poorer. All the while, I was living in a luxury apartment and saving ample amount. Still I never felt rich. Because I had extra money, I would shop more. I would buy stuff I never used. I thought buying the next expensive thing would make me feel better but it never did.
Then, I left it all and came back to India. For two years, I took no salary and spent from my savings. It sucked to spend your savings but somehow, the independence and working on my own ventures was peaceful. So, I persisted. My concept of wealth had already shifted. I was not focusing on a number but more on my happiness and independence. I had more control over my time and could spend time on things I enjoyed. This was also a kind of wealth. My persistence paid off as my business started becoming more stable and I started drawing a salary. I was no longer digging into my savings and in fact, was starting to save again. What a delight!
Last year, I crossed another aggressive business target which gave me more room to spend. But I recognized that I was falling in the same old pattern. While I was having more to spend at my discretion, I would think twice before spending and kept feeling unfull. Fortunately, I still decided to do something I had wanted to – I decided to spend 3 months in Auroville – a place that resonated with me. I knew I could afford it and I decided to go ahead with it although the orthodox Indian in me kept nagging how I was being a spendthrift.
In Auroville, as if by the hand of destiny, I got to read about Aurobindo’s philosophy on Money. It is a small booklet that compiles what Sri Aurobindo and Mother have commented on money and concept of wealth. Great, this is what I was looking for! This is what it said about Money –
“Money is indeed one of the three forces: power, wealth, sex – that have the strongest attraction for the human ego and the Asura and are most generally misheld and misused by those who retain them. The seekers or keepers of wealth are more often possessed rather than its possessors.
You must neither turn with an ascetic shrinking from the money power, the means it gives and the objects it brings, nor cherish a rajasic attachment to them or a spirit of enslaving self-indulgence in their gratifications.
The ideal Sadhaka in this kind is one who if required to live poorly can so live and no sense of want will affect him or interfere with the full inner play of the divine consciousness and if he is required to live richly, can so live and never for a moment fall into desire or attachment to his wealth or to the things that he uses or servitude to self-indulgence or a weak bondage to the habits that the possession of riches creates.
Money belongs to the one who spends it; that is an absolute law. You may pile up money, but it doesn’t belong to you until you spend it. Then you have the merit, the glory, the joy, the pleasure of spending it!
Money is not meant to generate money; money should generate an increase in production, an improvement in the conditions of life and a progress in human consciousness. This is its true use.”
So earning or desire to earn more is not at all bad but hoarding or spending for the sake of spending on material things that you do not really need causes negative energy. Earn more so that you can be empowered to do things you really wish. Buying books to enhance your knowledge of taking a course to build a skill set or spending on traveling to explore the world are all worthy causes. This is where the importance to understand your needs comes into the picture. Discussing this topic with a friend, I came to realize that I never define my needs or that of my business. By doing this, I never know how much is enough, and how much feels abundant? So, I calculated how much I need for basic needs every month and how much extra I would like to have an option of spending on things I wish to do. If my business helps me earn more than this, I am already rich! I could simply move to a place like Auroville for 3 months – affording the expenses is one big part but isn’t this availability of my time and the freedom to make this decision actually the true wealth?
No wonder, I have never felt richer in my life. More importantly, I am learning on how to spend freely on things that matter. It is as important to know where to spend as it is to understand where not to.
Sit today and understand your needs. Save for a rainy day but do not hoard. Money is an excellent medium to pursue self growth. Use it for that instead of stashing it in a bank thinking that it will help in case your children can’t build a good life for themselves. If your children are dependent on the money you are saving, you already have bigger problems in life.