We all remember Rajesh Khanna belting out ‘Zindagi Ke Safar Mein Guzar jaate jo mukam, woh phir nahi aatein’ and he was right! Our life is a mixture of the good and the bad decisions we make. But there is one thing that keeps us on our toes. There is one thing that keeps us on guard and crushes our lifelong dream of spending all our time singing Bollywood number around trees. Money! Hard-earned and gone in few minutes or few days!
Throughout our lifetime, all of our actions lead to either our money diminishing or reaching new heights. Indians know how to keep the money but also how to waste it without a second thought.
Let’s trace an Indian’s ideal life, shall we?
You are born in a well to do family. Your parents are supportive of your career decisions (and don’t force you in going the usual Engineer or Doctor path) You choose a career that fulfills both your passion and bank account(Yes, we can all dream can’t we). Also, You marry the love of your life(of your own choosing and preferably someone you know for more than a day) You buy the proverbial Makaan from ‘Roti, Kapda, and Makaan’ and have healthy children whose needs are met( and they don’t throw tantrums and aren’t brats) and you take care of your aging parents. Then you retire peacefully with a lot of savings.
Yes, that is indeed an Indian’s Ideal Life. While we would love to have all that, one wrong decision and your our bank accounts die a slow, painful death.
Also Read : Asset Allocation – By age or Goal
So, what are these motivations and milestones that put a permanent dent on our hard-earned money and transform us from potential Mukesh Ambani to someone our relatives won’t even wish to acknowledge at a family event?
Let us see!
Choosing to go abroad for College
We all have wanted to go to ‘Amrika’ once in our lives! From teen movies to F.R.I.E.N.D.S we all have our own versions of life in America. Well, most Indians try to get their byte-sized American Dream experience during college years. ‘Beta Indian se bahar padhne gaya hain’ is what us Indians love to throw at our acquaintances. More than the quality of education it is now a status symbol to go abroad to study. Someone might have the most irrelevant degree, but ‘London se kiya hain’ has all the aunties in shock and awe!
The ironic part of this: Most degrees abroad, especially the two-three years undergrad ones don’t hold up in India! So if you plan to come back to India and boast about it, hold your horses.
Now if we can only get the status out of heads and pay attention to our educational institutions back home, we can get a quality education, a degree that is viable as well as save a lot of money for future use.
This is not to say you should not go abroad to study. Universities like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Oxford, MIT are on everybody’s list of places to be as a student. But tier 3 colleges with no scholarship programs and an irrelevant degree is simply on worth breaking your bank for!
Also Read : Child Education and Marriage Goal
Choosing a career
We all want a career that pays! After slogging it out in college for years why should anyone settle for a meagre less paying job. But that is indeed the reality right now. Often, we as young adults completely fall for that Bollywood-ized idea of chasing your dreams, come what may! Villains and obstacles all gone because of our belief in our dreams! But while the hero beats the villain and gets the girl, we get served peanuts in the end.
We all need to accept that we are not all Bunny from Yeh Jawaani Hain Diwani, landing the perfect job traveling the world by following our passion. Passion has a place in life, but for pursuing that passion; we need capital too. So we should choose a career that pays real money and not blindly follow our passion for that spontaneous breakthrough! If we waste our money on a degree that does not give us a return on investment, both our bank balance and career are gone for a toss.
What is that one thing Indians are more interested in than anyone else in the world? Shaadi! You could have the best academic record, the best paying job, the best human being that never walked the earth but if you don’t get married at the ‘right time’ then your life is a waste and you are a waste of space yourself: Thats Indian society for you!
Weddings are a grand affair and in all our lifetime probably the splurgiest of the milestones! Most Indian parents keep a separate budget for weddings for their kids. From horses, to elephants to mile long baand baaja and baarat Indians don’t blink an eyelid before throwing their money for the most special day in their lives. Be it the grand functions and even delicious buffet Indians go all out for our big day!
Shaadi trumps everything else in the life of an Indian! Weddings in India are a full-fledged business as well as a family affair with relatives you don’t even know and probably did not even invite turning up on the d-day! So your finances are something you don’t even think about! Its more about celebrating the coming together of two people.
The real marriage
Ekta Kapoor might give you the impression that it’s completely easy-breezy to marry ten times in a month with no issues and everyone’s blessings except the vamp but marriages in real life involve a lot of legal paperwork and finances play a huge part in them. In all this glitz and glamour and celebration it is easy to forget that marriage is strictly a two people affair and not just an emotional one. It’s not just about the rings or mangalsutra but also about your assets. Debt no longer remain just yours and you are most likely to make a joint account as well.
While marriage is based on companionship and compatibility, it comes with a sense of responsibility as well. So not only you but also your spouse should be able to exercise a similar level of financial maturity to keep the balance in check. If you marry someone who only knows how to spend then rather than happily-ever-after you will face bouncing checks in the future!
Where we settle
We have all grown up watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S and living in a city with our best friends is often a dream most of us cherished while growing up. Back home, the city of dreams, Mumbai, often beckons us with its myriad of job opportunities.
It is only when we actually step foot in a big city that we get to know the massive earth-shattering cost of living! Living in a city has its perks but if you don’t have a financially secure job, you won’t even last a week. On the contrary, small towns give you the advantage to save up a lot of money but with less career opportunities.
Where you live affects your finances heavily because the cost of living, housing, education and job opportunities have a direct impact on your salary and savings.
Showing off and one upmanship
Indians and our age-old habit of poking into others business! More than our own lives we are concerned about what is happening with our neighbors. ‘OH, did they buy a new fridge’,’ Are they redecorating again’ ‘Who are they talking to at exact 12 am 42 minutes 60 seconds’ Our detective modes are always on to keep a tab on their movements.
Eventually, we start comparing our lives too with them. ‘Why do I have a smaller bed than them’, ‘Why do their kids go to a better school than mine’ ‘Are they installing a new AC while mine is not its last stages’ ‘WHY DOES SHARMAJI HAVE A 40 INCH TV AND I DON’T’ “WHY IS HIS CAR BETTER THAN MINE- the list is endless!
Truth be told, jealousy, envy and never being satisfied with our own lives leads us to act out and we keep buying bigger and more expensive things to show off to our neighbors and society at large that look we are better than you. For Indians, social status is everything. We all have that uncle who is almost going broke but that won’t stop him from showing off his new flat screen TV or a new car. In all this one Manship, the only thing going red is our finances.
The decision to have Children
In India when you have children everyone congratulates you for getting bestowed with ‘God’s gifts’, yes? But dare I say, ‘God’s gifts’ are expensive to raise! Responsibility of children does not end with changing their diapers, as Jonson will like you to believe. We all ‘aweee’ and cooo in unison when cute baby ads show up. While babies are indeed a bundle of cuteness, they are also a bundle of responsibility. And having babies is a responsibility of a lifetime!
Healthcare is a significant part of taking care of children. Most people in India insure their children first. In all, out of all other decisions in life that directly impact your finances, this one can be considered the most important.
So, if you and your bank account are not ready for that kind of responsibility, just direct your maternal and paternal instincts at bay.
Buying that dream house
We all have the blueprint of our perfect house in our heads. From how many rooms it would have and how big the TV will be to whether we will have a Sanjeev Kapoor Kitchen and how many Ramu Kakas will be there to help us out – we have thought of it all. Investing or buying a house is indeed a big deal and probably the most expensive purchase of our life. It’s the house we will live in for years or raise a family with and therefore takes away quite a few zeroes from our paychecks.
Buying your own piece of Bajaj or Maruti
We all remember the iconic ‘Humara Bajaj’ and Maruti ads of yesteryear generation. The idea of owning your first vehicle is ingrained in nostalgia for Indians. Social status aside, it is a symbol of financial bloom and a well to do family in new developed India. It is often the first investment from that first salary for most Indians. But with the growing GST on automobile manufacturing the prices have not helped. There is still EMIs that reduce the burden, but it is not a lie that a vehicle bought out of passion or need or social status still impacts our finances.
Caring for old parents
We have all cited ‘Aaj mere paas Bungla hain, gaadi hain, kya hain tumhara paas?’ that Amitabh Bachchan throws Shashi Kapoor in the iconic Deewar. And the answer ‘Mere pass Maa hain’ succinctly brings forth the importance of parents in an Indian’s life.
Our parents work their whole lives to keep us in comfort, so most of us would want to give our parents the same care in their old age as they gave us when we were children. This means not only emotional support and understanding but also financial support in terms of medical assistance. If you live far away and can’t take care of your parents on your own, you can hire home nursing staff for them. Senior housing is also available at various cities now. If we take our parents in, then all their living costs will be ours to take care of.
Often, we ignore the kind of care old people need. As their child, if you personally look after them, it might call for a career break. Your day job will become secondary, and your finances will be affected too. You need to consider how these factors and how they impact your finances before you plan to take care of your parents!
Aah, the sweet thought of retirement! We can ask any government employee about retirement, and we can see the way they daydream! Long sighs and exasperated longing for retirement is something we can all relate to. From holidays to Europe to pursuing new hobbies, we all have our heavily drawn-out retirement plans. Some people don’t even wait up for the full circle to close and end up taking voluntary retirement. But planning and thinking of retirement and actually being able to set it in motion are two different things!
Often we spend lavishly on so many things in life that our savings in the end is zero. Indian parents are notorious and self-sacrificial at the same time for spending every hard-earned penny on their children’s wedding. Well, sometimes it’s okay to relax and not care about ‘log kya kahenge’ and spend only what is necessary. To work your whole life and never enjoy the benefits of it is indeed a sad reality! We tend to show off our ‘Bungla’ ‘Gaadi’ and lifestyle to our neighbors and society in our prime but end up with nothing to our name in our last days.
So, here are a few things that you can do before even thinking of retirement. Have a solid financial plan to make your leisurely days as smooth as possible. If your goal is to retire peacefully and maintain your current lifestyle, you must always plan for the future. Simply put, plan ahead! Try to maintain a budget from the get-go. Stop spending all your money trying to prove you are a bigger fish in the neighborhood. Also, some people act like sharks trying to rip off money from a freshly minted retiree. So, please don’t fall for shady scams to make a quick buck!
Final Thoughts :
We all want a good stable life that has all the perks! We want the best in our prime and want our prime to continue forever, even in retirement. But for that to happen, we need to hold onto our wallets and have a sustainable plan. The goal is simple ‘Zindagi ke safar mein Guzar jaate hain jo mukam,wo phir nahi aatein hain’. So we need to be careful how we deal with every single milestone financially so that we can get our happily-ever-afters in life and be proud of a life well-lived. And no, you buying a bigger car to one-up Sharmaji doesn’t count as an achievement!