What are we supposed to do when the servant becomes the master? Can such a situation be rectified?
There is an old American saying that makes me smile each time I hear it:
“A man chases a woman until she catches him.”
The twist in that tail is a common aspect of humour. Consider this vintage joke:
“Behind every successful man... is an astounded mother-in-law!”
In the arena of personal finance there is a tendency we sometimes observe in others and perhaps to some extent, in ourselves, which comes complete with a twist of its own, although in this case it’s no laughing matter. Allow me to explain...
Long ago, in the days of embedded social stratification, almost everyone grew old without moving very much above or below the socioeconomic level of their parents: Princes became kings; artisans passed down their skills to their progeny; and the sons of peasants remained peasants.
Even today most young adults start their working lives at the same economic plane as their parents, for obvious reasons. But thankfully for the vast majority of us born without a silver spoon in our mouths, there can be a fair degree of upward social mobility propelled by higher education and laudable personal ambition.
Bottom line: We work hard and smart to make more money in our pursuit of the good life, which is a great thing. In my opinion, workaholism, to a reasonable degree, can be a good thing. (Read my online article Who Says Workaholism’s Bad for You? at www.freecoolarticles.com/TM2.htm)
The unhealthy pursuit of money
Nonetheless, if we aren’t careful, we might find ourselves spending ever-expanding chunks of our waking hours consumed by our pursuit of money because repetition forges the chains of habit. And habits are strange creatures.
We ever so slowly form them, one habit at a time, until they form us! In the case of pursuing ever-increasing amounts of money throughout our adult lives, this commonplace tendency builds momentum because inflation hurts and we want to be able to afford some nice things in life.
If we aren’t careful though, we might discover to our astonishment that the Almighty ringgit (or dollar or euro or yuan or yen), the earning of which consumes our time, eventually ends up consuming every part of us!
Then what began as a healthy trait aimed at improving our lot in life morphs into an unhealthy fixation to stay on the economic treadmill of our own choosing as we mindlessly ratchet up our pace. We end up sprinting on that conveyor belt to nowhere long after it would have made sense for us to slow down, stop, smell the roses, and focus on more significant aspects of bountiful, meaningful living than merely making more money.
Having money is supposed to buy us freedom and choices. But if we aren’t careful, we might find ourselves sacrificing the best parts of life — love, peace, health, joy, rest, fitness, spiritual and mental growth — for the worst of reasons: Endless rounds of pointless lifestyle upgrades merely to keep up with the Joneses (or perhaps the Alis, Ah Kaws and Arumugams).
The trouble with living life this way is that more stuff — or flashier ‘baubles’ as financial guru Robert Kiyosaki puts it — doesn’t end up satisfying our souls, especially when we are already very well off compared to most of the other 7.4 billion people scattered across our world.
Therefore, I suggest you assess the state of your life today by asking yourself two questions:
Does your money serve you? Or do you serve your money?
Those aren’t just interesting questions. They can be catalysts to your drawing a line in the sand and declaring to the universe, “Enough is enough!”
Money makes a great servant but it is a terrible, insatiable master!
Wise planning can make the difference
It’s important to remember that because the key difference between the cold, sterile process of investing for ever-increasing profits, and the dynamic, living process of financial planning that’s guided by our own heartfelt goals is that the former, in isolation, never leads us to true satisfaction; we always end up seeking more! In contrast, financial planning can be wisely harnessed to guide us to the point of being genuinely satisfied and deeply happy with what we’ve accomplished after, say, two or three or four decades of honest, arduous toil.
We all deserve to cut ourselves some slack by giving our inner selves permission to eventually step off the treadmill of the rat race with dignity. Financial planning can guide us in knowing when enough is enough.
Here — from an old version of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards website — is the best definition of financial planning I know: “Financial planning is the process of meeting your life goals through the proper management of your finances.”
You may begin utilising its liberating power by reading about it, researching its nuances, and then earnestly seeking out financial planning guidance from your money-savvy friends and family, and from dedicated professionals (a good place to begin such a search is www.fpam.org.my/fpam/cfp-directory/list-of-featured-cfps/).
Regardless of what else you choose to do, please make sure you move away from feeding the insatiable appetite of money; instead, tell it who is the boss and harness its power to serve YOUR causes, YOUR family and YOUR dreams.
© 2018 Rajen Devadason