Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Money, Money, Money

The other day I was introduced to a term I had not heard before-VUCA. The world today is apparently in a VUCA state. Not wanting to let on that I had no clue what my colleague was referring to, I waited to get away from him so I could google the meaning. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain (or was it Unpredictable?), Complex and Ambiguous. Basically we are sitting on  volcano that is waiting to erupt soon, but the exact timing is uncertain and it would lead to some ambiguous complexity or complex ambiguity. I was advised by my colleague that life in time of VUCA was to be lived with utmost caution and  methodical calculations. We needed to be prepared for the VUCA!

Just a few days later I was scolded by a friend for being too naive about the future. I was earning too little, not saving enough and spending disproportionately to my income. I needed to 'get serious', 'live in the real world' and 'get out of my la-la land'. I took the criticism rather harshly, though it did have some element of truth in it. So in the spirit of always learning and because it was a VUCA world, I decided to introspect.

Lessons from Self-Reflection

1) Easy Come Easy Go- that is the relationship that Money and I have always shared. I have had to live on an income that would be considered below poverty line by professional urban folks where I have written cheques that have bounced because my account had insufficient funds. A concept that I was alien to until that moment. And then there have been times where I have spent without a care on lavish travels and bought clothes and shoes like they were going to be rationed the next day.

On both occasions the lack or the excess of money mattered little to me. It was a matter of fact. I don't have enough to pay for groceries, I will stop eating out. I have more than enough after all my obligatory expenses, I will splurge.

In hindi there is a saying "Paisa haath ka mel hota hai". Loosely translated it means "Money is like dust on your hands". It comes, it goes.

2) Six digit credit card limit- Yeah that's want banks think I am worthy of. It can be intoxicating, but I feel I am rather grounded. Plastic to me is convenience, and bills are always paid in full, on time. Unfortunately for my bank, I am not a revolving credit chic.

That does not mean however I don't overspend on my card. This happens often when I travel. As money spent in foreign land is not an expense. It's an investment that ensures you are having a holiday of a lifetime. I won't be going back to Paris anytime soon, so the holiday needs to be maximized. Simple logic.

3) Coffee, cakes and wines- If I cut these from my diet, I would cut calories and credit card bills. But then how empty would life be?

4) 6 month or 12 month?- It's year end! While I look at my expense-income excel sheet (yes I religiously enter my expenses  and calculate my meager savings), most of my friends are banking their bonus cheques. Bonus- A concept practically unheard of in the advertising world. No stash at year end to invest, pay bulk of the home mortgage or even keep aside for a rainy day. Which only makes it even more important to stretch the monthly salary. Note to self. Save more. Spend less.

5) Beyond Dreams- I just got back from Lonavala, and my parents and I spotted a hotel we had vacationed in years ago- Sayadhari Resort. I had forgotten how simple our holidays used to be, not to mention the choice of destinations. My last short vacation- I take at least two short and one long vacation a year, not including my annual Bombay pilgrimage- was in Phuket, where we got upgraded to a room with a private pool which overlooked the ocean. A far cry from Sayadhari Resort rooms.

I thank God regularly for giving me much more than I had ever imagined. I did not think I could afford buying my own place or take fancy holidays without support from someone else. And here I am. Some believe that if you don't dream big enough, you will always be satisfied with the little you have, never realizing how much more you could get.

Which brings me to the external question. How much is enough? And who decides its enough?

I believe you can have unlimited money. You just need to have the hunger, be reasonably smart and not care about the other valuable currency- time. Money can be earned and multiplied if you give it time. Time to work extra hours, time to study the investment options, time to accelerate your career.

Time is what we have limited of. A day only has 24 hours. A year only has 365 days. And the time you have left in this world could be one second or fifty years. No one knows.

So between money and time- and yes it all boils down to this choice- I choose time.

I choose to take up a part time job and learn considerably less so I have more time with Sanil.

I choose to take a vacation to see my old friends because I don't know if I, or they, would be around when I finally come around to planning that trip in the future.

I choose to enjoy the present instead of constantly worrying about the future.

Yes I may be naive, silly even. And may be I live in an Alice styled wonderland. But I take books over bonuses, surprises over stocks, art over assets (unless the art is the asset), babies over bank accounts and time over everything else.

My prudent friends would say that I don't have the required ammo to face the VUCA. And may be I don't. May be I will struggle more than others, may be I will fail, may be I will realize my folly.

But if money does really make the world go around, don't you still need the time to go along on that merry ride?

Here's wishing you my version of the VUCA new year- Vibrant, Understanding, Caring and Adventurous. Happy 2014 folks!