My Money Mess

Lately, I have been observing myself thinking too much about money. And I can’t seem to stop thinking of it at a subconscious level, even though I want to. It likely started with pandemic induced self-learning of finance that happened, probably, across the world. Within my circle in India I felt this self-learning picking up pretty fast — people discussing strategies for saving for their retirement, stock tips discussed by people who were averse to investing in equities till pandemic — and also outside my circle with maximum number of demat accounts being opened in Indian history. There’s more to money/finance than equities, I know. However, learning about it is how things started for me.

I read and loved a couple of books about a long-term approach to building wealth. They had simple ideas rather than getting technical about investing. This suited me because I have a day job that requires me to focus at it and I can’t keep looking at the ticker throughout the day. Besides, I love software development way more than looking at stock prices and doing stock trading.

I learned that I need to increase my allocation of money I save from my monthly salary to retire with a reasonable corpus that could help me take care of various needs. Basically save more than I was already doing. All I had to do was increase the money I saved, and pandemic induced saving mentality made it easy to prioritize savings.

So far, so good. Enter “The Great Resignation”.

I don’t know about other sectors/industries, but tech industry was shaken up by The Great Resignation. It’s still going through it, from what I am seeing, and is far from over — way far.

I don’t know about its origins, but the wave of The Great Resignation arrived in India at some point. It has caused more people to jump ships than I have seen in the past. Listening to the kind of salary hikes people are getting has left me dumbstruck. I’m seeing this happen across all experience and expertise levels. Even close friends and acquaintances had their story to share. And I have been genuinely happy for them.

But I don’t know when I started feeling the FOMO of a bigger pay cheque. I strongly believe that I’m not earning less to fulfil mine and my family’s needs. I also see the purpose in my work and really like what I am doing for “work”. But seeing so many people getting insane pay hikes has left me thinking if I am making enough, or should I try to look around for fatter pay. But I don’t know how much is “enough”. Do the richest people on earth believe that they have enough money?

My mind’s obsessing over money more than it ever did in the past. I can’t get myself to feel that I’m saving enough even though I am saving more than 20% of my salary that the 50/30/20 philosophy preaches. I can’t feel that my “needs” don’t require me to obsess over earning more. Instead of focussing on enjoying the work and learning technology, I have started focussing too hard on money side of the things. This new person that I have become is pretty difficult even for me to completely recognize.

Ever since I graduated in 2010, my focus has been on work — getting interesting, motivating, impactful work — that doesn’t require me to “drag” myself to it for money. Between 2013 and 2017 I taught Python and Linux to a bunch of undergraduate students. Besides the technical topics, discussion often used to turn towards topics around money, nature of work, company culture, etc. My suggestion to those students was to always prioritize on getting and doing work that kept them going, while keeping money as second priority. I believe that money should be a by-product of doing the kind of work that doesn’t feel like “work”.

However, 2021 showed me a different side of me that obsessed so much over money that I ended up harming my health. Overthinking about how I can get that hike or get that promotion, has taken away the fun I used to find in my work. It has killed the fun that I found in learning tech. Nowadays, I see every technical blog only as a means to get closer to that hike I could possibly get. It lead to anxiety that went beyond my head and showed its physical effects on my health.

This has to stop and stop now. I want to feel the fun I so clearly remember feeling when I learnt new things a few years back. I want to enjoy the process instead of being focussed on the result. I love reading books, and in more than one book I have come across age-old teaching of doing the karma without focussing on end result. I remember reading some interview/article about MS Dhoni where he says that — as any other human, he wants to win the match he’s playing, but he doesn’t keep thinking of victory while playing. He just focusses on playing his best game. Whatever the result, a win or a loss, he then accepts it but with the satisfaction that he gave his best.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to shift my mindset sooner rather than later now that I have realized how such a bad approach is doing me disservice!