Saturday, October 27, 2012

How Much Money for the Best Possible Life



Earl's Court, Nainital
Today my mind went to a fundamental question – how much money does one need for a good life, perhaps the best possible one on the planet. The reason for this thought arose because of worries for a friend and class fellow (Rajat Gupta) who was until a few years ago amongst the richest persons in USA. Then he got involved in legal difficulties because of which not only did the sources of his income stop but he has also been fined and is paying exorbitant legal costs. The net outcome would be that his wealth will reduce substantially. However, on deeper reflection the cause of my worry disappeared as I deliberated briefly on what amount of money is required by a family or person to have a very comfortable and good life style, in fact the kind that much less than one per cent of the population of the planet is able to afford.

I presently live in India and my estimates began from here. I arrived at the conclusion that a million dollars of net wealth should suffice for a really great life in this country. In India the units of numbers is things like lakhs (a hundred thousand) and crores (a hundred lakhs) rather than millions and billions. The old mathematicians of India preferred to move up in multiples of hundreds rather than thousands. The unit of currency here is a Rupee and a dollar is very approximately equal to fifty rupees.

By this reckoning a million dollars is five core rupees. Approximately two and a half crore rupees (half a million) suffices for a luxurious bungalow with all its trappings in an average Indian city or town. The large metropolitan cities are far costlier but it is useless to look at them for a good quality of life because in any case with their traffic, pollution, lack of open spaces, crowd and crime a good quality of life is impossible in those large metros, whatever be one’s wealth.

After the bungalow, the remaining half million in safe bank deposits produces a monthly interest in India, that suffices for a luxurious lifestyle that includes a couple of swanky cars, servants etc. Therefore my clear conclusion is that one does not require more than a million dollars for a decadent one per cent style of life in India. In fact a good life is also possible with far less. In developed countries such as USA where conditions are different, one would require more and my rough estimate is that to achieve the same level of decadence and filth :) one would require a net wealth of five million dollars. In fact more would be a stress producing encumbrance that will deprive one of happiness, the very purpose for acquiring wealth in the first place. Certainly there are issues of inflation but there are time tested methods for taking care of that. Thus, wealthy Indians traditionally kept half their wealth not as cash but gold and land, a farm land if they were urban dwellers that they visited at least once a year or an urban home if they were farmers.

Therefore the financial worries for my friend diminished after these calculations because my rough estimates show that despite his present financial burdens he shall be left with a greater financial wealth than my estimates here. The problem of wealth with the world in general however remains. We have a world where some people have millions upon millions and billions upon billions and are not satisfied with that wealth, whereas the vast majority manages with very little or none. But then, it is my belief that the greed of the very rich is not a question of need but rather a psychological condition and for that I really have no answer but to suggest that they visit a shrink or Love the Lord and find Happiness because more than a need for the filthy rich to shed their greed is a far more urgent need of theirs to shed their unhappiness. Some say it is for an ego trip or a sense of power, but I could suggest several other ways of going on an ego trip or acquiring a sense of power that cost next to nothing, but that would need a separate blog post or perhaps posting too much information :).

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