Financial freedom – A new obsession

hqdefaultWhenever people left the KBM ashram during my stay, Didi always said goodbye to them. During my whole stay, I think she told me every day and sometimes multiple times during the day that I had to come back at least once a year. My reply was always non-committal: “if Krishna wants, hopefully, I can try..” etc. The reason was that my life is not straight-forward and getting both the money and the time to come can be challenging. So she was asking every day, multiple times and I was always skittish in my answer. Imagine having at least 5 minutes talk with her every day about you coming back, multiple times a day. I mean – she was being insistent and working hard on getting through to me. Then it was my turn to leave and she came to say goodbye.

Didi: Your stay has been like a dream that ended too soon.
Me: Give it time, and that dream may become permanent.

That just blurted out of me and I have no idea from where, but it felt so right when I said it. I didn’t really realize what I had said until one devotee said to me: “Now you have said it to Didi, so now it has to come true”.

In hindsight I’ve been thinking how utterly cheezy and stupid that line is. It’s like a small kid of two years old telling a professor that “I’m coming”, except I’m 38 years old and should know better. I’m not really that poetic in language either unless I’m blogging (but even here it’s not much poetry).

My life before and after have been a prime motivator to get out of this material conception – except that I’m so mired into it now that I’m losing the battle. Maya is winning and sadhana is put on hold indefinitely.

Maya is so successfull with me that I have gotten a new obsession – financial freedom. What does it take to quit the rat race of working and to retire well before the expected age?

One of the things I have been curios about is how people afford to live in Vrindavin. What is their income? During my stay I tried to ask a little bit around on this, but I didn’t really get a good answer. It seems like people get there in different ways. One of my friends said that one could live well in Vrindavin on 150 USD a month. That is not a lot of money.  So I did my custom google whenever a problem comes up, and this time it was a combination of Mayas punishment and crushing credit card debt looming over me.

Enter – Mr. Money Mustache. Considering how we devotees are supposed to be liberated from material needs and desires, this guy preaches frugality the way devotees understand. Only spend on what you really need, cut your spending in creative ways (my goal for this month is to cut my utility bill with 25% and I’m doing good). Pay down your mortage and invest your money wisely. Let whatever money you have be your productive employee who makes money for you. Goal: Early retirement by cutting spending and investing your money until your investments matches all your living expenses.

After spending a whole lot of time reading up on his blog, I now see that early retirement is an achievable goal. I have a credit card debt I need to pay off etc., but I’m working on scaling down my life. And I’m excited about it! The thought of bicycling to buy groceries put me off initially. But after spending time outside with my son every sunday (no matter the weather) and cleaning the car: I suddenly imagine that cycling with him to purchase groceries will be lovely. We both love to be outdoors and being active. If we go on bicycle runs together, he will be ecstatic! He is already ecstatic every time I say we are going to wash the car.

So I have already began the process of scaling down my life and I’m doing very well for now. The thing is: you just have to learn about investing and Mr. Money Mustache sums it up easily in this post. I found a stock index fund I began investing a small amount of money on. Right now I have two priorities: Pay off my credit card debt and save a symbolic amount of money monthly in the index fund (just to feel that I’m moving forward in my dream and have some employees working for me). After a while I will begin investing in a dividend paying fund, but that is for later after I have stabilized my financial situation.

It takes very little money to generate 150 USD a month. That means the fund have to generate minimum 1800 USD a year (150 usd x 12 months). Just take a savings calculator and plot in the numbers. The average I use is 7% (though right now we are in a dip and the number is lower). The return on your savings is the magical number that should amount to 1800 a year.  If you save 3000 dollars in 5 years, you have the magical amount easily. 3000 dollars is not much a year if you go into super saving mode.

In my case I own my own apartment. If I sell my apartment even now, I probably could retire in India if I wanted (though it would be too little investments to feel comfortable if the market drops a year). And I have a son – my priorities is with him for now which means no eloping anywhere.

Now I have kind of put Krishna on ice, and there is very little written on the vedic viewpoint of evil. But when I think of what I want in my future, there is still only one thing I see. I will live in India most of the months in the year, and spend a few months either in Norway or travelling elsewhere. I can’t imagine living alone without association like now.

And now I have finally understood how I will get there. Which means a whole lot of the job is already done. And may be that is one of the things Krishna is wringing out of me rather forcefully.