Transcending finances and finding purpose

Transcending finances and finding purpose

Life is beautiful for a lot of people. While for others, life is a wringer, with an ever-busy schedule, constant stress resulting in a listless, monotonous life.

That was the case with Pritam who was doing well in his career but was feeling burnt-out. He was not enjoying it. He had already built a decent amount of wealth and had half a mind to leave his job and do something worthwhile. However, he was only 45 years old and did not know what to do next.

Making life beautiful, exciting

We all have one life. Life is precious and there is so much we can do with our lives to make it well lived and truly an exhilarating experience. For that we need to find out what truly excites us.

We need to work towards worldly goals like a home, vacations, vehicles, retirement etc. But they are more like a duty which one needs to fulfil. One may feel happy, secure and content in achieving these. But these do not truly add to the quality of life as these are just duties that need to be discharged.

We need to include things that we enjoy doing. It may be hobbies, activities or indulgences. All of us have those things which give us a high. We need that as a part of our lives to make it interesting and well lived.

Like Pritam, many people who are doing well in their careers coast along even after it has stopped exerting its appeal on them. They unthinkingly assume that doing well in their career, building wealth and maximising returns is the way forward in life. Such people are happy and chirpy when the markets are up and become despondent in a down cycle. This way they cede control over their happiness to an external factor.

Life is not just about money. Money is indeed the grease that lubricates the cogs of life. While money is important, it is not the purpose of our existence.

Money is needed for meeting our expenses, financial goals and securing material comforts. But it cannot make us happy or give us a high. Like they say, money can buy a bed, not sleep.

Finding purpose
Including things which one loves doing can give happiness and contentment. Also, it is important to find something that is extremely worthwhile, has tremendous significance and transcends one’s life that one may want to be a part of. Such a goal becomes one’s life purpose.

Purpose gives direction in life and infuses vigour, happiness, enthusiasm and contentment in one’s life. Purpose is what puts one’s life on the highway and gives it velocity.

Without purpose, we are not very different from animals. Animals live from day to day, eat, sleep, stay alive and procreate so that their species can survive. We tend to think that we are different from animals. Yet, if we ignore everything apart from money, are we really that different?

What is your purpose?
Different people can have different purposes that they are passionate about.

At a personal level, one may find satisfaction and fulfillment in doing certain things like pursuing hobbies, travel, fitness, better quality of relationships with friends and family, teaching children etc.

Some may find working for the welfare of animals close to their heart. For others, it could be social causes like education, environmental conservation, afforestation, elderly care, working to ameliorate the condition of cancer patients, working to give a leg-up to disadvantaged groups, mentally challenged, destitute women, orphans, homeless etc.

Irrespective of where they choose to spend the time, the common thread is that they find tremendous meaning and satisfaction in pursuing it.

Most people are not clear about their purpose in life and it is this lack of clarity that forces them to fixate on money — which is the default option for most.

The maya that the wealthy succumb to
Really wealthy people who can meet their every goal think that wealth maximisation is the only remaining goal for them.

Many of them keep spending their time reading, watching TV/videos on finances and agonising over the returns and taxes. Their kick comes from investing in products that offer the best return. They like the feel of distributors chasing them, fawning over them.

This thought is aided by wealth managers/distributors who massage the ego of their wealthy clients and pitch a variety of products playing up to the client psyche of maximising returns. They get stuck in the maya of investing in multiple exotic products, returns, tax optimisation etc. Maya is the illusory, make believe world & happenings there, that we take to be real.

They in fact take the maya one level up by having multiple “advisors”, pitting one against another, none knowing the complete picture. What they don’t realise is that this leads to poor quality advice as no one has any knowledge of the big picture.

The more-money-is-better maya
But having more money does not in any way better the quality of their lives. Sure, they could buy more bling. However, it does not change their material status, nor does it make life more fulfilling, happier, contented or meaningful.

Some of them say that they are maximising wealth to pass it on to the next generation.

That is problematic at three levels. Firstly, it robs the children of the initiative as they already have been amply provided for. Secondly, it somehow carries the assumption that children cannot be as successful as themselves and may not be able to accumulate wealth like them. Thirdly, even they will not have use for money beyond a certain threshold.

Hence, running after even more money lacks coherent logic and just exposes lack of purpose and direction.

Changing purpose
Purpose could actually change during one’s life; only that many people do not realise it and hence, do not get updated at all.

Purpose could change when we have achieved a cherished goal towards which we have been working all along or when we move to a different life stage. This especially hits home at retirement.

When we retire, most do not know what to do. Watching TV, reading newspapers, going on walks etc. still leaves a lot of time on hand. We wonder how to spend all that time, especially if we have not yet figured out what will make our life meaningful, in the new phase. Retirement then turns out to be a long and boring vacation.

This is a problem not just for ourselves but also for our spouse, children and everyone around.

Thinking beyond oneself
Purpose can be anything that will kindle interest and enthusiasm and energise us to work towards the new milestones.

Purpose need not always be personal or family oriented; it can transcend these and can include welfare work in communities and society at large. Like it was mentioned earlier, it can be targeted for specific causes or specific groups.

Philanthropy and charitable giving adds meaning to life. It need not always be only by way of monetary contributions. It can also be through our time. We need to experience the inner glow of an altruistic act where our generosity and well-meaning efforts have touched someone’s life.

Finding purpose is vital. Without it, we tend to live our life pursuing meaningless goals that leads to stress and lack of vigour. That is why it does not feel great even when we keep making a lot of money and are wildly successful. Ever felt this way?

(The author is MD & Principal Office of Ladder7 Wealth Planners P. Ltd. And author of the book – If God was your Financial Planner.)

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Author: Shirley