Making wealth accumulation more meaningful
Wealth is a reservoir we build over our lifetimes. We build it with a combination of hard work, industriousness, ingenuity, astute investments and other factors. Capabilities, risk taking abilities, business sense and people skills may all contribute to one’s success. Some of us are more successful here than others and we get to enjoy the fruits of our wealth in our lifetimes. The point to keep in mind is that at least one of the reasons for success is a society that has been supportive and has allowed one to build wealth. Luck plays a role too in one’s success. While some build wealth this way, some inherit wealth.
Wealth gets created in one generation and gets carried on to future generations. The one who created the wealth might have had all the qualities which makes a person successful and wealthy. The ones inheriting the wealth may not be as capable or competent. It is an irony of life that despite this, they will enjoy the wealth for which they contributed nothing. They enjoy that just because they came from the right womb!
The wealth passage over generations is a well-accepted concept that it does not even occur to us to question it. However, it is an unfair arrangement where generations of inheritors enjoy wealth due to just being born in that family and due to no other merit.
In the entire animal kingdom, there is no inheritance of any sort possible. A tiger cannot pass on its territory to its cubs – there is no dynasty it can create. In fact, animals don’t even store food for the future (with a few exceptions). The animal kingdom runs on capabilities and not on entitlements. We are supposed to be superior to animals and yet we have regressed to a system that perpetrates entitlements, stifles ambition and inhibits individual initiative.
When water gets stored in a pond, it starts stinking after a point, as it is stagnant water. This does not, however, happen in a river. Water needs to flow for it to remain in proper, good condition. Wealth is like water. If it gets locked up, it becomes moribund and unproductive.
Wealth needs to be well-managed to stay healthy. It should be put to proper use and should be productively deployed. In the hands of a capable scion, this will no doubt happen. But in many cases, the inheritors are clueless and are not interested in managing wealth. They are more interested in living off the wealth without ever knowing how to generate that wealth or even manage it.
This is understood by enlightened individuals who want to give back what they have been able to create to the society, instead of allowing their children to just live off the wealth like parasites. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are just two such individuals who have committed most of their wealth to charitable causes. These people acknowledge that they have benefited immensely from the society and want to give back what they have been able to build. This is an enlightened view which is gaining currency.
When these successful people create charitable endowments, they lend their success template to the causes they support. They become ambassadors to some causes which in turn energises many more to come and join that effort. This creates a multiplier effect where there is substantial contribution from these successful people which becomes much bigger as more and more people join in. Hence, what such people start becomes a much bigger effort than what they could have individually created.
Colleges/ hospitals, we have all benefited from, have been created by such people which benefits the society at large. Often times, it is not always someone who is super wealthy who does it. It is someone who wants to do something good for the society who started it. Organisations which such people create, starts small and over time grows into mammoth institutions. Almost half of all institutions world over have been started this way.
Wealth as aloha
Money is important today. But beyond a point, wealth does not have much meaning. A person who is hungry can eat only so much. When one’s desires are all satisfied, wealth becomes just a cash stash. We cannot carry our wealth to the grave. For a person who has everything, the pleasure of giving or the satisfaction of creating something that will outlive them, is a great motivator.
Respect in society does not come with wealth; it comes when a wealthy person is willing to open his purse to give a hand to others who are not so favourably placed. Such wealthy people are not seen with the eyes of envy, resentment and jealousy. They become the enlightened souls whom the society idolises and looks up to. They are seen as people who are willing to spread aloha and build a more just society.
There is immense joy in giving. All those people who have built schools/ colleges and hospitals find joy in giving. They are those grateful people who want to thank the society that gave them everything – by giving back. They are the ones who want to pass back the blessings (or aloha ) to everyone else.
Only when one gives, will one feel that immense sense of satisfaction and that warm glow that fills the heart. The best way to know how it feels is through first-hand experience. No one can describe the thrill of hang gliding to someone who has never ever done it. Philanthropy is also like that.
Give a hand
Philanthropy is the best way to deploy one’s wealth after all the legitimate aspirations have been met. It’s the best way to thank all the people who have helped one in various ways to do well, to accumulate wealth. It’s the only way to create a just society (instead of cribbing & carping about what a warped society we have ).
It is wrongly believed by most that giving will come when we have enough. But, for most of us, that enough never seems to be enough. So, when does one start giving – when one has Rs 5 crore, Rs 50 crore, Rs 500 crore?
Each one of us can always give something from what we have, if only we want to. Philanthropy is a state of mind. It is never about how much we own. The quantum does not matter; it is the thought that matters. It is about wanting to help another, about caring, about empathy. It is about leaving behind a better place and a more just society than what we had inherited. It is about thinking beyond ourselves. It is selflessness…