Dad… Can you send me some money?

In Episode 5 of TAMG, ad industry veteran Vijay Bhat and his son Shravan talk money—a subject that’s rarely discussed in Indian families. What value do the two generations place on money, especially in tough times? And how early should you talk about it in the family?

Founding Fuel

Cash rules everything, they say. It shapes not just our lifestyle and career, but also our relationships. And yet, it's not all about the money.

In Episode 5 of Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation, father-son duo Vijay and Shravan Bhat discuss some thorny issues around money.

Vijay, who is based in Mumbai, is an advertising industry veteran and founder of Cancer Awakens. Shravan is a New Yorker, a journalist, and a “humble YouTube comedian” as he describes himself.

They discuss three broad ideas:

1. How do the two generations identify value when it comes to money?

2. How do they navigate money problems in tough times?

3. The conflict between money and loyalty in the workplace—i.e., which is more important, seeking more money or following your passion?   

The value of money

Shravan: “You and mom grew up in socialist India. Whereas I was raised in the West, so my worldview is more Western.”

Vijay: “Indian parents are notoriously funny for squeezing maximum utility out of everything. We even put our clocks five minutes fast. We somehow think that it saves five minutes…. You saw value through the lens of affordability and brand status. And we were seeing it through the lens of functionality and longevity.”

Navigating hard times

Vijay: “I actually fell off the income cliff thrice in the last 20 years…. What saved us are the three cushions.  

The savings cushion (we had set aside money for the big things that mattered);

The goodwill cushion (that really helped us because people gave us work opportunities. People did a lot of things for us);  

And the cushion of the enough point.”

Shravan: “I try not to think about stuff in the future that I can't change. I try and live in the moment and say, what do I actually have control over, like my physical fitness, my relationships… if I look at my friends, a lot of them have had to leave their houses in expensive places and move in with their parents. It's about being humble enough to ask for help.”

Vijay: “We were pushing ourselves for the future. And it seems to me that you guys are pushing yourself for the present.”

The ping pong

Buy or rent?

Shravan: “I don't have any money to buy, so I will be renting.”

Vijay: “You described yourself as sensible hedonists. I think that's a good combination of knowing when to be prudent and when to enjoy yourselves.”

If you won the lottery, how would you make the world a better place?

Shravan: “I would put all the money into electing progressive leaders—in political office and organizations.”

Salary and passion

Vijay: “When you're thinking about choosing a career, do you follow your passions, or do you pursue financial security? How does your generation view the whole idea of building a long-term career? How does money influence that decision?”

Shravan: “For us, it's more like, what can we get for the next three to four years? I've had two global ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ financial crises in my life in the last 10 years. I don't know what's going to be around. I want to just try and spend the next few years in an organization that has the same values as I do.

“There's a stereotype of young people that we keep changing jobs just like that. We do it because we have to try and earn more. The cost of college tuition has gone up so much relative to salaries. The only way to make that jump is to change organizations.

Pet peeves about how the other generation deals with money

Vijay: “You guys fall into the debt trap too early and you leave financial planning for too late.”

Shravan: “Interest rates are so low, isn't it a good time to get a loan?...

“My pet peeve for your generation is that most of you pontificate without doing enough. Things have gotten outrageously expensive for no reason—housing costs, college tuition…. Use your vote and your voice get leaders in office—political leaders, leaders in your own organizations—who have a plan to fix these fundamental things.

Vijay: “We were relentlessly driving towards rising above our circumstances. We narrow focused on only one form of capital—money. I wish you guys would start building up your reserves in multiple forms of capital.”

How has the pandemic changed your outlook on money?

Shravan: “It's not changed my outlook in the long term. It’s just made me more grateful for the things that I have.”

Advice for peers on having similar conversations in their family

Shravan: “You have to be vulnerable. And ask for help when you need it. You have to also be ready to hear the advice that you may not like.”

Vijay: “The earlier you start having these conversations, the better.”

What's Episode 6 of the show about?

August 29, 2020: Episode 6 of TAMG. At 7.30 pm IST, with mom and son Amrita and Shoumik Chowdhury. Both are steeped in Deep Tech. They will discuss how to stoke a love for frontier science and what it takes to commit to the long and hard journey of study, research and cutting-edge innovation. If you haven’t registered to watch the show already, register here: https://bit.ly/FFTAMG

Bookmark the series. (The show is supported by a column on Founding Fuel, and an ongoing conversation with the Founding Fuel community on our Slack channel.)

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