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In this article, we shall explore on the topic of “Money and Mind” with Dr. Thuppil Venkatesh, who is widely recognized as a leading figure in India. He has served at St. John’s Medical College in Bangalore. I’d like to express my gratitude for your willingness to share the connection between the human mind and money.
In our previous article, Dr. Thuppil had mentioned the three stages of a child’s financial development: play, learn, and earn. I recall your emphasis on these stages and how they influence our relationship with money. In this context, I have two fundamental questions to explore with Dr. Thuppil.
These questions are intertwined because one’s approach to earning and managing money greatly impacts their overall well-being. There are various perspectives on when individuals can start earning. In many developed countries, children as young as five are encouraged to engage in simple work activities, such as household chores, for a modest allowance. This experience instils a sense of responsibility and the understanding that money is something they have earned.
It’s a valuable lesson when a child realizes that the money they’ve earned holds more significance than what they can purchase with it. This concept of “true earning” is crucial. On the contrary, receiving money without effort, such as pocket money, often lacks the same value. The focus should be on earning money to which one assigns genuine value. I recall an incident from my visit to Italy, where someone presented me with various foreign currencies as colorful, beautifully decorated papers. I appreciated these as something more than mere paper or coins. Money should be regarded as more valuable, something to be cherished, rather than mere currency. Earning money can occur at any age.
For instance, I observe young schoolchildren in my daily walks who deliver newspapers in exchange for a small income. Their satisfaction in earning this money, despite its modest amount, is remarkable. Here’s an analogy:
Imagine a wealthy man who provides his pampered son with daily pocket money, resulting in the child having no understanding of the money’s value. This father decided to stop giving money one day and told his son to earn it himself. The child, eager to prove himself, offered to help carry luggage for elderly people at a train station. He earned a few rupees, which he cherished. However, when his father asked for the money and eventually discarded it in a well, the boy was furious. He felt that his hard-earned money had been wasted. This situation taught the child that the money he earned held more value than what he could buy with it. This realization is pivotal—money spent on material possessions often has less value than the money itself. In fact, when you spend 10 rupees, you don’t receive goods worth 11 rupees. You typically get something worth 9 rupees, which is a universal truth.
In the eyes of the law, individuals are generally permitted to earn money legally at around 20 to 22 years of age. The money they earn at this age should primarily serve to sustain themselves, ensuring they don’t become reliant on loans. Young professionals, especially in the IT industry, often receive credit cards before their first paycheck. They may spend more than they earn, leading to a cycle of debt. This isn’t true earning. The key is to earn and save judiciously.
Some wise thinkers have suggested that, at the age of 20, individuals should earn only 20 percent of what they need. At 30, they should earn 30 percent, and so on. The focus should not be on accumulating excessive wealth but on balancing earnings with responsibilities. For instance, at the age of 60, one should earn 60 percent of their needs, allocating a portion to their children, family, and future security. Such a structured approach ensures that money is distributed thoughtfully, aligning with various life responsibilities. Furthermore, it prevents excessive accumulation that can lead to stress and hypertension.
Young people often face a dilemma when comparing their career options. They may feel pressured to pursue high-paying jobs, even if their true calling lies elsewhere, such as a mechanical engineer compelled to join the IT industry for financial reasons. This pressure arises from the significant income disparity between industries. However, it’s essential to recognize that money is a resource to improve both personal lives and society.
The joy of giving and making others’ lives better is one of the greatest sources of fulfilment. Rather than focusing solely on wealth accumulation, individuals should consider their true calling and how they can contribute to their communities. By combining their skills and earnings with a sense of social responsibility, they can lead more meaningful lives.
We must remember that wealth is a tool for improving our own lives and the lives of those around us. The true joy lies not in hoarding money, but in using it wisely and for the greater good.
I thank Dr. Thuppil for sharing these profound insights on the complex relationship between money and the human mind. Your wisdom and stories offer valuable perspectives on how we can navigate the challenges and opportunities that money presents in our lives.
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Alumnus of NITK, Surathkal & IISc, Bengaluru
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