Discover your relationship with money this Diwali
Very often, when we embark on the journey of financial planning, we can get caught up in the process and forget the purpose. A too-tight focus on money and its care has the potential to leach away the joy that money can bring. And equally on the other side, a too-tight focus on instant gratification has the potential to reduce us to our baser instincts. Diwali is the time when we have the opportunity to reconnect with the deeper meaning of money in our lives, discover our relationship with money and then if we don’t like what we find, to change it to what the aspiration is.
For us to discover our relationship with money, we should be able to wade through all the insecurities, emotions and experiences that having money or not having it have brought into our lives till now. This is not easy to do since the money energy is deeply entwined with every aspect of our lives such that it is difficult to unravel the real reason for doing what we do. It helps to see this through three lenses—how we earn, spend and look after money.
It matters how we earn this money. With what intention you do what you do and then get compensated for your labour makes the difference between just doing a job, running a business or spending the productive years of a life in some meaningful work. There is always a choice in front of you and you can choose that which has more meaning rather than one that has more money. There are times in life when money without meaning is needed, and it is fine to do that, but never let that flame of meaning die out. The day you can exit from the less-meaningful work into something else, jump off into the dark abyss below. There is always a safety net that you may not see. Money that comes due to meaning in the work has a different flavour. Savour it.
It matters how we spend this money. The day you find why you spend the way you spend, you have the key to your relationship with money. We spend for different reasons. To fill that guilt hole in the heart for not spending time with the kid. To fill the insecurity hole that as a child we carried around because the parents could not send us for the school trip that everybody was going for. To show the peer group that we have arrived by buying the car that announces the fact. To paper over a decaying relationship with expensive gifts on a birthday. To celebrate a milestone together. To enjoy a trip. Is it brand over comfort or is it need over greed? A good way to work through your own relationship with money is to watch yourself educating your kid on money. Then watch what you do yourselves. We say very high-sounding things but may be doing the opposite. Saying and doing are often not the same. Find out why you spend (or don’t spend), and life is never the same again.
It matters how we look after this money. Fear, panic, confusion and greed are the typical emotions we feel when we think of looking after our money. A key part of the Diwali celebrations is the cleaning up so that the homes are prepared for the goddess of wealth to step in. The little feet we paint on the doorway after the cleaning and the rangoli are all aimed at welcoming her into the home. A similar clean up on the way we look after our money is also a part of this exercise. A neat money box is one that has each square in the box clearly defined and filled with different products that serve a purpose. A nudge towards working is to clean the desk and have it ready for work when you are ready. A neat money box is the nudge to a more efficient and productive keeping of the money.
Diwali is the time for rethinking our money lives one more time. The outward manifestation of this is the home cleaning, the card parties, the shopping, gifts, sweets, the lights, puja and the crackers. The Lakshmi puja is that moment in the din to remember this deeper relationship, offer our work to the divine and invite the goddess of wealth—both money and deeper-than-money—into our homes and lives. No invocation to Mahalakshmi for me is complete without this quote by freedom fighter and seer Sri Aurobindo from his book The Mother: “Harmony and beauty of the mind and soul, harmony and beauty of the thoughts and feelings, harmony and beauty in every outward act and movement, harmony and beauty of the life and surroundings, this is the demand of Mahalakshmi.”
Monika Halan is consulting editor at Mint and writes on household finance, policy and regulation