Artha: My Difficult Relationship with Money

This post is going to be long, complicated, and messy. Pretty much reflective of my relationship with money.

I don’t know why I have such a difficult time with the concept of money. One of the goals of Hindu life is Artha: wealth and prosperity. Not just monetarily, but prosperity in lots of ways. It’s good to build abundance. Yet I feel crushing guilt over trying to do that.

I want money. I’m scared of money. I’m scared of not having enough. I’m scared that trying to get it makes me a bad person. I’m afraid of becoming greedy or miserly. I’m afraid I’ll always be tightening the purse strings and unable to splurge or enjoy things in life. I want to have enough money to be able to relax.

A lot of these issues started for me with Roald Dahl. I know people think he’s the most awesome children’s book writer, but I hate him and I hate his books. They have a powerful message about how only poor people are good people.

In the fourth grade we had a unit where we read a lot of his books. My mom noticed that I was getting really moody and easily upset. One day I completely broke down and sobbed about how we couldn’t be good and moral people because we had money. My family was firmly upper middle class. Not hugely wealthy, but definitely enough. “Even Jesus only loved poor people,” I wailed. (See: Did I Start Out Christian?)

It didn’t take long for my mother to realize where that idea was coming from. It was definitely the Roald Dahl books. I stopped reading them, but my relationship with money ever since has been rocky.

All through my life I’ve had a difficult time parting with money. Hoarding it makes me happier than buying stuff or going on trips, etc. It never feels like there’s enough.

This year I’ve experienced more challenge than ever before.

When Brad and I got together we were earning about the same amount. Not a lot, but definitely a solid amount for single people in their twenties. Together we moved into a larger apartment (it is actually a better deal than the previous apartment, more square footage for not very much more money). But we chose that apartment based on our double income. Then before we even moved in, the company Brad worked for decided they didn’t want retail locations anymore and even though he was great at what he did, they let him go. Before that I had a plan to get all his credit card debt paid down completely within the year. Now there’s very little to put towards it after basic living expenses.

I never anticipated being a breadwinner. For this year and the one coming I’m supporting the both of us. It’s a really good experience for me to have! It’s an interesting perspective to be providing for my little family of two.

It hit me during the wedding ceremony that one of the seven steps was a promise to support each other in getting artha. We are supposed to be building wealth and when we have wealth and resources then we can share and uplift others. Gathering wealth doesn’t have to be a selfish thing. I really need to internalize that. There is enough. Wealth can build exactly like love does. It can expand and overflow and keep everything moving. If I had more money, I would be doing more to help others (I did discover a great way to support charity, though. I collaborated on a couple of book projects and I run the income from them. All the money earned by sales of those books goes to charity. That way I can give but it never comes out of our family budget!)

For some reason I can understand and feel comfortable with my boss paying me to sit at a desk in an office. This is how things are done, right? Yet there are millions of people making livings in other ways. Teachers, priests, artists, entertainers, firefighters, decorators, chefs; they all support their community and make money not sitting at a desk in a cubicle. Why do I not feel like I deserve to be making compensation from the work I do on projects that I’m passionate about? I hate to ask people to spend their money. Knowing how much I hate parting with mine, even if I have a product I think is valuable, I hate asking people to pay for it.

But art matters. I love having video games and novels and tv shows and graphic novels and blogs exploring life and beautiful pictures and crocheted hats and woodwork crafts. I’m happy that people make a living at these things. The passion and love shows through and it lifts me up. When I have a little extra money, I’m happy to support the creation of artistic things that I like. Why do I have so much trouble believing that others are also willing to pay a little to support the artist whose work they enjoy?

There aren’t enough desk jobs to go around as it is. Those of us with passion for arts may as well make the world a better place with our art and have support at the same time. This reminds me of how beggars are viewed very differently in America and in India. In America people think (or say), “Get a real job, you lazy bum.” In India (at least historically), the beggars were often holy men whose constant meditation and prayer was uplifting the whole community. It was a blessing to be able to give to these holy men; to feed them or give them alms. I’m not sure how true that is anymore, though.

I’m the one calling myself a lazy bum. Every day. And yet I’m working an office job and writing this blog and writing the premium blog and running an ebook publishing company of romance novels. I actually am working really hard. I just don’t give myself any credit for it.

I think sometimes I don’t value the things I have talent for. Because I’m good at writing, it feels like being good at writing isn’t anything special or important. I fail to realize that people who are not as good in writing enjoy having stories told for them. How many centuries have bards been in existence? Societies always have story tellers, right?

For some reason the extreme frugality thing makes me feel better. It’s like feeling in control in the situation. I get a rush from little coupon victories and from shaving little bits off our electricity bill. I read frugal blogs (why are they ALL Christian moms?) and obsess over how to save pennies off our grocery bill. Not a bad hobby to have, in general. The feelings of fear and guilt connected with money are what need to go.

We have enough. Really we do. We’re getting by and there’s so many people in worse situations than ours. Brad is in graduate school now and by next year he should have no trouble getting a job that makes him really happy. I’m finding creative ways to add to the money coming in. We’re certainly not in danger of starving to death.

Oh man, this writing thing really is like therapy. It’s nice to explore this and really face these issues that I have. Clearly I still have a long way to go in developing a healthy relationship with money. But talking about it and bringing the issues out into the light is a really good start. I’ve been focusing this Navratri on spending some time with Ma Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, asking for help sorting through it all.

I appreciate that the Hindu way of life supports worldly success and celebrates the balance of wealth and charity and all good things in life. Hinduism supports doing well in every area of life: spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially, etc.

Did you know that you just being here and reading my blog helps support me? Without clicking anything or buying anything, just being here helps me out financially. I work many hours a week crafting posts that I hope you will find valuable and helpful and I really appreciate you coming by to read them!  

{Today on the subscription blog, a discussion of Chapter Two of How to Become a Hindu. And be sure to sign up for the FREE live chat Friday.}


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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Empire of the Zon

    Interesting, I totally empathize with the difficulty of writing, It was very hard work getting through my first novel, inspired by my Hindu background. Check it out: http://burgessrm.wix.com/empire-of-the-zon

  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    I see what you mean in messy. It’s not entirely your fault, as finances for people, especially Anglos in general, are messy. It’s a very complicated story, but I’ll do my best.

    For one thing, the banking class set up the monetary system as well as the modern system of feudalism to make it difficult for us to survive. They come up with all kinds of ways to steal your money. Did you know that if you have a house, a car, land, that you actually DON’T OWN THEM?? As long as you have to pay money after it’s been paid off to keep possession of it or use it, you actually don’t own it, because they can be taken away from you. Legally. Another way they steal your money is through a stealth tax called inflation, because by the time you get the money down the line in your course of employment, the price of things have gone up already. In this case, your salary does not move up as quickly as prices in general increase. Inflation is not an increase in prices, but really, the increase in the money supply relative to the increase of population growth. Another way they steal your money is through taxation – the IRS was created alongside the Federal Reserve System to give the illusion that our paper dollars were absolutely needed, otherwise, the government couldn’t continue to function, to make the paper dollars real while hiding the fact that sheets of the stuff were being printed up and given to the banking system and whoever was well-connected. That’s why we call it printing money. The book, “The Creature From Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve,” explains this VERY WELL, and it’s a hard read to stomach if you don’t know of the financial crimes committed by the banking class. It’s why the financial sector is also known as the Financial Mob and makes chumps out of the Italian Mobsters. There’s no comparison.

    They have done this, by getting us off the silver, bimetallic standard in 1873, the gold standard in 1933 (domestically through Executive Order 6102), and internationally on August 15, 1971, when Nixon closed the gold window, preventing nations from bankrupting the US when they realized what was going on and redeeming the US dollars from trade and tourists for the gold. From 1971 on, we have been on PURE FIAT currency. Never in history has there been a time when an investor has NO PLACE to go to safeguard their money by putting it in another currency that is held up by a better-run country, simply because the paper currencies MUST maintain their positions relative to each other, otherwise if their currencies get stronger, then their export industries get hit with financial competition, but if the currencies get too weak, then the public starts complaining about inflation. It’s a race to the bottom, really…

    The hollowing out of the industrial base in the US is another reason we are having a tough time – the relative lack of skilled trades compared to 150 years ago that contribute to the construction/sustaining of civilization – farming, mining, extraction, and manufacturing.

    So, here we are:

    In America, people are struggling, and they’re having to sell off things, especially gold and silver (that’s why you see all these “We buy gold” signs down the streets and the shops), while in Russia to some extent, but notably in China, and especially in India, they are buying the stuff hand-over-fist. They see what is happening, where it’s leading to, and they’re getting into what almost no one else has in sufficient quantities, especially when these things are known for being money in hard times. They learned about these things from my sources in the underground financial research circles I used to run around in in the last 10 years.

    What they see is a major shift in wealth from the west to the east. A historic one for sure.

    Message me on FB is you want more info on what you can do.

    • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

      This is what I mean. This is what I still read on a daily basis, a very small portion of what I used to spend 50 hours per week learning about.

      http://www.caseyresearch.com/gsd/edition/germanys-failed-attempt-to-get-its-gold-back-opens-question-of-sovereignty

      http://rt.com/op-edge/170948-germany-gold-us-sovereignty/

      http://www.ingoldwetrust.ch/chinese-gold-demand-947-mt-ytd

      Have you noticed that most of our stuff comes from outside the US?
      Have you noticed that most hotels/motels are owned by foreigners (whether standalone or franchises)?

      The second comment is not racist, just to be sure. It is simply what it is as a result of being smart about preserving family wealth, which Americans in general know NOTHING about, as shown by what happened in what is really a relatively mild financial crisis in 2008. Because of my sources of information, I saw it coming, and I repositioned my 401K lineup to preserve what I had in there (I cashed out and paid down bills when I left my company last year). Meanwhile, my coworkers got hit HARD because they had not paid attention to what was going on around them and entrusted investment decisions to their brokers (who, by the way, are part of the Financial Mob).

      He who has the gold makes the rules. Americans will find this out the hard way, unfortunately.

  • KarunAcharya

    The fear of unknown makes us safe guard for future. The
    degree of that fear varies among the species and is a carried over effect from
    our poorva janma (previous birth) vasana (qualities). An analogy will be: A ceiling
    fan in my humid room in India. I turn the switch on the fan blows while in a
    room, and when I get up to change my state (new birth), I turned the switch
    off. The fan blade continues to rotate (even after the plug is pulled off) till
    they stop. That spinning is the vasana.

    I might have been an orphaned street beggar in my previous
    birth put in an environment where there is plenty around … but not for me. So I
    yearn for that security of “plentiful-ness” as I laid down my mortal coil in my
    last birth. Fast forward in to a new body, I am born with a sense of fear
    (which is my antima smaran or thought in my previous birth) from childhood. That’s
    how vasana acts in a new life according to my limited understanding. This understanding
    came from the life of Jada Bharatha.

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/vinoda-thakur-veenu/the-story-of-jada-bharata-from-srimad-bhagavatam/515892548556592/

    Proportionate (to the needs*) savings and leading a minimalist
    life brings peace. Artha needs to be practiced to support ordained duties in
    householder’s (Gruhasrama) life. Embedded in those ordained duties are:
    supporting the family and supporting temple, Acharya (who depends on gruhastra
    people to support them), learned people and lending a hand to someone who is
    down. In fact, Gruhasrama is considered the highest asrama as it lends support
    to all other asramas.

    My prAnams to you as an idealistic hindu supporting your
    family as a sole breadwinner. You also are empathetic (from your note on
    feeling remorse even for others for their childhood pranks).

    Artha is time-specific, and needs to be gradually shelved as
    we transition in to a new stage ashrama
    namely Vanaprasta (children settle down and we age). If it is not
    shelved, one continues in the same asrama without moving up. We all like to
    graduate and move on right?


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