Balancing act: Knowing when you have enough

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“Rajendra Jain is no more.” I could not believe these words coming from a friend last Saturday night. I told him the joke was in very bad taste. But then reality slowly sank in. Jain had suffered a massive cardiac arrest. I had known Jain for over two decades. He had celebrated his 60th birthday a few months ago. Over time, we became close friends, having gone on several 

treks together.Jain belonged to a middle-class family from a small village in Maharashtra. He had set up a successful Chartered Accountancy practice in Mumbai through hard work, grit, and determination. He was passionate about physical fitness and played badminton, swam, and jogged regularly.

I share Jain’s passion for fitness. I monitor my diet and sleep patterns, take the necessary health supplements, and undergo regular tests. I love the work I do with my clients and have excellent family and social relationships. I thought I had ticked all the boxes outlined in Dr Peter Attia’s book on healthy longevity titled Outlive.

Jain’s passing away was doubly shocking since I had recently recovered from a major surgery. After ignoring the symptoms for some time, I went in for a check-up on New Year’s Day, only to get the shocking news that I would have to undergo a coronary artery bypass. Fortunately, the surgery was successful and I recovered swiftly.

My experience and Jain’s passing away have made me re-examine how I deal with known health risks. I had overlooked the importance of screening for familial risk factors, necessitating the coronary surgery. I realised that focusing solely on fitness, while neglecting the broader aspects of health, was a significant error.

I had confused being fit with being healthy. Fitness and health are not synonymous: the former is about physical capability, while the latter encompasses physical, mental, and social well-being. This episode is a wake-up call for me not to concentrate on an easier but narrower goal like being fit over the more difficult and nebulous concept of being healthy.

Many of our clients make a similar error—confusing being rich with being happy. Many focus on accumulating wealth rather than pursuing goals that make them happy. Some take undue risks to squeeze more out of their existing resources. As their financial coaches, we try to nudge them towards the right way of thinking.

With many clients, the review consists primarily of demonstrating that even with conservative assumptions they can afford to withdraw enough each month to lead a comfortable lifestyle. In the case of other clients, we try to convince them that they can ease up on their professional commitments to spend time on the things they have always meant to do. Essentially, we tell them they are rich enough and can now concentrate on being happy.

Truth be told, it is human nature to concentrate on solving easier problems and avoid the more difficult and nebulous ones. Our firm is committed to helping clients see beyond the easy path and highlight the trade-offs involved. These recent events have prompted me to reassess my priorities and strive for better work-life balance. Our firm has decided to limit new clients to referrals only. I have decided to spend more time on raising the standards of the investment advisory profession.

On the health front, I have added regular screenings for blockages to my regimen and am focusing on physical and emotional well-being. I spend more time with friends, doing the things we enjoy. I spend more time with my spouse as we ride out the evening of our lives together. And hopefully, I will find the time for a few indulgences like a spontaneous road trip with my spouse. 

And to you, Jain, you always reached the destination ahead of me on our treks. I hope that, like always, you will save a good seat for me in the dining tent and we will share a meal together again in the beyond.

The writer heads Fee-Only Investment Advisors LLP, a Sebi-registered investment advisor;

X (formerly Twitter): @harshroongta

Disclaimer: These are personal views of the writer. They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of or the Business Standard newspaper

Mandatory disclosure by SEBI

(A slightly different version of this column first appeared in the Business Standard on March 11, 2024)

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