Financial Lessons from my Indian Parents

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
  1. Invest in gold

Indian parents LOVE gold. It is really an obsession.

Every time my parents make a little extra money, they just buy gold. This used to frustrate me as a child because I wanted something I could USE. Like a TV. But, now I am 30 and every article on finance I read advices me to buy gold, gold futures or other gold related assets. The value of a rupee or a dollar may fall, but gold is stable and will always have value.

2. Work on reducing your wants

My parents are happy with very little. This wasn’t a trait but a habit they cultivated as children growing up with 5 or more siblings.

I was taught to be content even before I was taught to be successful, and I am thankful for this lesson.

Thanks to them, I’m completely disinterested in buying the new spring line or new shoes and believe that the best things in life cannot be bought.

3. Eat home-cooked meals

My parents rarely eat out. Going to a restaurant was only reserved for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. About five years back, I ate out every other day. I thought I’d discovered a new life hack! Why cook when you could eat at Chipotle for less than $15?! My parents were crazy, I thought. They’d come home exhausted after work and insisted on cooking elaborate dinners.

After a few years of eating out, my stomach and my wallet just couldn’t handle it anymore and I realized with a sigh that my parents were right after all. It is SO expensive to eat out. I used to spend ~$15-20 dollars on a meal. Now that I have started eating at home, I spend less than $2 on fresh, vegetarian, home-cooked meals! This is an investment in my health too.

When articles about the health benefits of Indian spices and ghee started coming out in 2015-ish, my parents were like..

“I told you so. Our grandparents told us so! This is community knowledge. It’s time tested, unlike these short-lived health trends.”

4. Invest in relationships

Relationships are everything to my parents. Their entire lives revolved around keeping the surrounding people happy.

They are close to retirement. Now when they look back on their lives, they see a large group of people who have been with them through thick and thin.

They feel fearless about their future, knowing that their community will get them through anything that life throws at them. I want this fearlessness.

As children, even if we didn’t have a good day at school or work, we could always go back to our large and supportive family for comfort. This was possible solely due to my parents’ effort to maintain close ties.

Something tells me that security in relationships/community is as important (if not more) as a large 401k.

My parents’ sense of security (even mine!), comes from the land and house they own. No financial decision is too risky because they always have the property to fall back on. When my parents bought the house, it wasn’t in an ideal part of the city.

30 years since, this property has appreciated ~600 times over and the city has expanded to include this area.

A piece of earth to call your own — that’s always a nice feeling, right?

What did you learn about investing from your parents?

Writer, singer and product manager living and dreaming in San Francisco.

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