Learning Finance From My Grandfather’s Life Which Started With $10
It all started from getting less than $10 a month.
Today marks the 8th day since my grandfather got diagnosed with cancer, last stage. Since 4 and half years, he has been half-paralysed and mute due to a brain-stroke. Everyday is a guess-game for my grandmother — guessing if he wants water, what he wants to eat, if he’s in pain, what he’s thinking.
My grandfather (who I call nanaji, a Hindi word for maternal grandfather) was in the Indian army for 5 years (short service commission) where he also had the privilege to fight for the country during the India-Pakistan war of 1971. Post which, he has been an officer in the Central Reserve Police Force — fighting terrorism in the State of Punjab, protecting our borders in the volatile areas of Kashmir, and acting like this is no big deal when he would come back home to his family.
All my summer holidays have been spent at their house, enjoying the pampering received by the first-born grandchild. It is now at 24 that I look back and realise some of my greatest life lessons come from him. Here, I elucidate on financial lessons I have learnt from his life experiences.
Do not take a loan, use a credit card, and spend more than required
I know this makes you think — ‘Hey! The credit card points work to your favour. And how am I supposed to buy a car without instalments?’
Now lets pause and seep in that my nanaji earned Rs.750 ($10) a month. When times got better (1990s) he earned Rs.25,000 per month($333). He did not propose frugality, but rather a simple lifestyle devoid of the luxuries you cannot freely afford.
Invest — whatever little you can
In late 70's when my mother a child, they lived in a tent provided by the government. The tent consisted of a mattress and two steal chairs, and nothing else.
Today, both his kids live in the houses that he has bought and my grandmother is financially supported by a decent rental income from some commercial spaces bought by him.
How did this happen, from living in a tent? He invested the smallest sums he could instead of using up a large portion of his savings. He kept the savings to buy necessities (no EMI/loan remember), and invested what he could. I believe he was unknowingly influenced by Einstein!
Maintaining family ties is more important than a bank account
When my nanaji’s father passed away, he did not have a will distributing his land and property. My nanaji sat with his brother’s family as the division was between the two of them. Honestly if it was me, I’d be selfish about it! On the other hand, he put the papers on the table between them and asked them to take whatever they wish as long as its nearly equal. I asked him how could he do this? He told me having your family close to you is better than having a slightly greater bank balance.
Till today, our extended family calls my grandmother everyday asking about his well-being followed by a gossip session about everything else. If this isn’t pure love and respect, what is?
Amongst the numerous life lessons that I have learnt from him, it was hard to only talk about three. Even though we haven’t communicated in almost 5 years despite meeting every week, I hope he understands how greatly we love him. Deep inside I’m sure he does, because I believe that love can always be felt even if not spoken.