Sunday, May 30, 2010
"The soul that meditates on the Self is content to serve the Self and rests satisfied within the Self, there remains nothing more for him to accomplish." -- Bhagavad Gita
"It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell." -- Gautama Buddha
"Your daily life is your temple and your religion. Whenever you enter it take with you your all." -- Kahlil Gibran
What's the first emotion that comes to your mind when you say finances?
Bliss? Joy? Anger? Hate? Any other? …confused?
Chances are you are unlikely to associate some emotion to finances or your financial decisions. We have been conditioned to believe that anything to do with finances or financial planning has nothing to do with emotions. Managing finances is pure logic and arithmetic, governed purely by set rules, guidelines and principles. This is where most financial plans fail.
Financial planning is a process to make our lives simpler. And irrespective of how good a plan may be its success is directly proportional to your needs, desires and feelings.
This is something that a good financial planner will say — you cannot discount the human element of financial planning. An important factor to consider when managing finances is to understand what drives you, what you feel, what fears do you have, and how you react financially under different situations. The more you decipher the motives driving your financial decisions, the higher are your chances of creating and executing a financial plan that is tailor made to your aspirations.
The list below will help you identify if you give in to some of the common emotional traits I have observed in people.
There is nothing wrong with my finances
When your financial position is healthy and things are progressing as planes, people tend to become relaxed about their finances. They start believing that nothing can affect their current status or money flow. If at any point the funds start to tighten, they think that they can rely on the next paycheck or bonus to resolve the condition.
The problem arises when things don't go as per plans and no measures are taken to arrest the situation. In good times, we fail to plan for the bad ones and do not have a backup plan for emergencies. Work towards setting up an emergency fund to safeguard yourself.
If he has it, I should too
There is an old Indian adage - 'to be happy look at those who are not as fortunate as you are.' Yet, most of us seldom follow this line of thinking. Being in a race to have everything first, we start competing with those around us. "I want a better phone like my office colleague, I want the new LED TV...
: like my neighbour, I want a better watch than my boss," the list of such desires is endless.
The impact of such behaviour hits people more since they end up spending more than they can afford, creating a debt trap for themselves.
I should have it first
Some of us fall into the trap of believing that we deserve a lot more than we already have. Believing that one is entitled to everything, one tends to start getting into a habit of purchasing everything irrespective of whether it is affordable or not. This is one of the easiest ways for people to get themselves into a credit card debt.
Finances can be sorted a little later
The list of things you should have done earlier is likely to be endless. We all are victims of procrastination, waiting to do things at the last minute and in the bargain not doing it at our optimum. The need of keeping one's finances in order is common knowledge but how many of us actually put it into practice?
By postponing decisions about money management, one runs the risk of a negative impact on overall finances. The worst part is that at the end of everything one keeps regretting that despite knowing what needed to be done, the result is disappointing.
Finances = fear
Human tendency is to stay away from anything that can cause us pain. It's easier to refuse to face the truth rather than accepting it. I have come across many individuals who refuse to look at their finances simply because they fear it. They become so afraid of problems in their finances that they never put serious effort in addressing the issue at hand. Eventually, this pattern continues to erode the finances further. If one knows that a situation is difficult, running away from it cannot help. The only way of overcoming this is by facing your fear.
Tiredness and fatigue
Learning to manage your finances is a long term process, one that takes discipline, time and effort. Unless the importance of money and timely management has been imbibed in people at a young age, they do not develop the drive to maintain finances. You might have seen many colleagues, who have a pile of papers on their desk, just playing games online or updating their facebook accounts when they should actually be clearing up the backlog....
Ask them about it and you get a prompt reply, "Just took a short break since I felt tired."
Finances are too confusing for me to handle
Often half knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge at all - and this really applies to people who are not adequately informed about their own financial matters. One ends up consulting friends and relatives when there is confusion about the course of action related to finances. And more often than not, every one gives a different view point or suggestion. The worst part is that the people we consult may not be qualified to respond to such queries. At the end of the day, you end up confusing yourself about how you need to proceed. Many just cease to resolve things at this stage and give up.
Anger or resentment
Financial problems are an inevitable part of one's life. Some people are unable to withstand the pressure created by such troubles and over a period of time develop anger or resentment towards themselves, their situation and their finances. In such a frame of mind, they are unwilling to disentangle their problems or make a sustained effort at improving their finances. Consumed by resentment, they just end up ignoring means to pick themselves out of their financial woes.
Are any of these demons haunting you? If yes, then try to figure out how did you first got pulled into such emotions. It may also be a good idea to consult a financial planner, who can guide you in identifying and confronting these traits. However, ultimately the state of our finances is in your hands. Recognising the bond between these emotions and your finances is not enough, you need to exhibit an unrelenting determination in overriding these factors.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Driving in India
For the benefit of every Tom, Dick and Harry visiting India and daring to drive on Indian roads, I am offering a few hints for survival. They are applicable to every place in India except Bihar, where life outside a vehicle is only marginally safer.
Indian road rules broadly operate within the domain of karma where you do your best, and leave the results to your insurance company. The hints are as follows:
Do we drive on the left or right of the road?
The answer is "both". Basically you start on the left of the road, unless it is occupied. In that case, go to the right, unless that is also occupied. Then proceed by occupying the next available gap, as in chess. Just trust your instincts, ascertain the direction, and proceed. Adherence to road rules leads to much misery and occasional fatality. Most drivers don't drive, but just aim their vehicles in the intended direction. Don't you get discouraged or underestimate yourself except for a belief in reincarnation, the other drivers are not in any better position.
Don't stop at pedestrian crossings just because some fool wants to cross the road. You may do so only if you enjoy being bumped in the back. Pedestrians have been strictly instructed to cross only when traffic is moving slowly or has come to a dead stop because some minister is in town. Still some idiot may try to wade across, but then, let us not talk ill of the dead.
Blowing your horn is not a sign of protest as in some countries. We horn to express joy, resentment, frustration, romance and bare lust (two brisk blasts), or, just mobilize a dozing cow in the middle of the bazaar.
Keep informative books in the glove compartment. You may read them during traffic jams, while awaiting the chief minister's motorcade, or waiting for the rainwaters to recede when over ground traffic meets underground drainage.
Occasionally you might see what looks like a UFO with blinking colored lights and weird sounds emanating from within. This is an illuminated bus, full of happy pilgrims singing bhajans. These pilgrims go at breakneck speed, seeking contact with the Almighty,
often meeting with success.
Auto Rickshaw (Baby Taxi): The result of a collision between a rickshaw and an automobile, this three-wheeled vehicle works on an external combustion engine that runs on a mixture of kerosene oil and creosote. This triangular vehicle carries iron rods, gas cylinders or passengers three times its weight and dimension, at an unspecified fare. After careful geometric calculations, children are folded and packed into these auto rickshaws until some children in the periphery are not in contact with the vehicle at all. Then their school bags are pushed into the microscopic gaps all round so those minor collisions with other vehicles on the road cause no permanent damage. Of course, the peripheral children are charged half the fare and also learn Newton's laws of motion en route to school. Auto-rickshaw drivers follow the road rules depicted in the film Ben Hur, and are licensed to irritate.
Mopeds: The moped looks like an oil tin on wheels and makes noise like an electric shaver. It runs 30 miles on a teaspoon of petrol and travels at break-bottom speed. As the sides of the road are too rough for a ride, the moped drivers tend to drive in the middle of the road; they would rather drive under heavier vehicles instead of around them and are often "mopped" off the tarmac.
Leaning Tower of Passes: Most bus passengers are given free passes and during rush hours, there is absolute mayhem. There are passengers hanging off other passengers, who in turn hang off the railings and the overloaded bus leans dangerously, defying laws of gravity but obeying laws of surface tension. As drivers get paid for overload (so many Rupees per kg of passenger), no questions are ever asked. Steer clear of these buses by a width of three passengers.
One-way Street: These boards are put up by traffic people to add jest in their otherwise drab lives. Don't stick to the literal meaning and proceed in one direction. In metaphysical terms, it means that you cannot proceed in two directions at once. So drive, as you like, in reverse throughout, if you are the fussy type. Least I sound hypercritical; I must add a positive point also. Rash and fast driving in residential areas has been prevented by providing a "speed breaker"; two for each house.
This mound, incidentally, covers the water and drainage pipes for that residence and is left untarred for easy identification by the corporation authorities, should they want to recover the pipe for year-end accounting.
Night driving on Indian roads can be an exhilarating experience (for those with the mental makeup of Chenghis Khan). In a way, it is like playing Russian roulette, because you do not know who amongst the drivers is loaded. What looks like premature dawn on the horizon turns out to be a truck attempting a speed record. On encountering it, just pull partly into the field adjoining the road until the phenomenon passes. Our roads do not have shoulders, but occasional boulders. Do not blink your lights expecting reciprocation. The only dim thing in the truck is the driver, and with the peg of illicit arrack (alcohol) he has had at the last stop, his total cerebral functions add up to little more than a naught. Truck drivers are the James Bonds of India, and are licensed to kill. Often you may encounter a single powerful beam of light about six feet above the ground. This is not a super motorbike, but a truck approaching you with a single light on, usually the left one. It could be the right one, but never get too close to investigate. You may prove your point posthumously. Of course, all this occurs at night, on the trunk roads. During the daytime, trucks are more visible, except that the drivers will never show any Signal. (And you must watch for the absent signals; they are the greater threat). Only, you will often observe that the cleaner who sits next to the driver, will project his hand and wave hysterically.
This is definitely not to be construed as a signal for a left turn. The waving is just a statement of physical relief on a hot day.
If, after all this, you still want to drive in India, have your lessons between 8 pm and 11 am-when the police have gone home and The citizen is then free to enjoy the 'FREEDOM OF SPEED' enshrined in our constitution.
Having said all this, isn't it true that the accident rate and related deaths are less in India compared to US or other countries!!? ?
'50gms!' ..... '100gms!' .....'125gms' ...the students answered.
"I really don't know unless I weigh it," said the professor, "but, my question is: What would happen if I held it up like this for a few minutes?"
'Nothing' ..the students said.
'Ok what would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?' the professor asked.
'Your arm would begin to ache' said one of the student.
"You're right, now what would happen if I held it for a day?"
"Your arm could go numb, you might have severe muscle stress; paralysis; have to go to hospital for sure!" .. ventured another student; all the students laughed.
"Very good. But during all this, did the weight of the glass change?" asked the professor.
'No'. Was the answer.
"Then what caused the arm ache; the muscle stress?"
The students were puzzled.
"What should I do now to come out of pain?" asked professor again.
"Put the glass down!" said one of the students.
"Exactly!" said the professor.
Life's problems are something like this. Hold it for a few minutes in your head; they seem OK. Think of them for a long time & they begin to ache.
Hold it even longer; they begin to paralyze you. You will not be able to do anything..
It's important to think of the challenges or problems in your life, But EVEN MORE IMPORTANT is to 'PUT THEM DOWN' at the end of every day before You go to sleep...
That way, you are not stressed, you wake up every day fresh;strong; can handle any issue, any challenge that comes your way!
So, when you leave office/college/workplace today,
Remember to ' PUT THE GLASS DOWN ! ‘