I love reading about celebrities who started out poor, hoping there is a lesson to learn, but the truth is they did not start out middle class like me.
The middle class is well, in the middle, neither rich nor poor, but just there, hanging in a balance, worrying about EMI (Equated Monthly Installment) to pay back the loan on their scooter and worrying whether they can afford a second bathroom in their dream apartment.
Microsoft News pushes such uplifting stories on its online portal about how the super-rich were once super poor, maybe to boost the confidence of us poor people that anything is possible even if you do not have a credit or a debit card to order stuff from Amazon, owned by multimillionaire Jeff Bezos.
Take 50 Cent for instance, the American rapper, songwriter and TV producer, who grew up so dirt poor in Queens, New York, that his mother had a tough time supporting the family.
Today, his net worth is $30 million (Dh110.2 million or Rs2.20 billion). It is not exactly clear how he became so rich.
Or take Leonardo di Caprio, whose mother had to take several jobs for them to survive in Los Angeles. Or Oprah Winfrey, who grew up in abject poverty.
A dream come true
Many years ago, I interviewed Naushad Ali, the musician and songwriter, who introduced classical Indian music to Bollywood, and he recounted how poor he was and how no one gave him a chance initially to compose songs, and how he slept on the footpath in front of Broadway Theatre in Bombay and dreamt that one day the movie with his songs would be screened at the theatre.
That dream came true for him after 16 long years, and there are reports that he cried when the movie ‘Baiju Bawra’, for which Naushad composed the music, played at Broadway. (The movie’s lead character, Baiju the Crazy, was a medieval musician who lived during the Mughal period in the 16th century)
What I got from reading, or clicking through this clickbait story, was that you have to be poor to get rich ... or to sleep on the pavement. Well, that’s too late for me now, because if I sleep on the pavement, I will get pain in the joints.
Or, that you have to have lots of money to well, make more money. My bank manager surprised me that other day and said he would appreciate if I came to the bank and met their wealth manager.
The wealth manager said we need to assess my risk appetite and he asked me my age. When I told him, his face fell, and he said, “OK, we don’t have much time,” which is not a nice thing to say to someone.
Be alive and not too decrepit
According to financial experts the way to make money is to put away your money for a long, long time, and hopefully you will be alive and not too decrepit when it compounds into a nice tidy sum.
There are various ways to do this, one is through ‘SIP” in India, and in Canada, it is through “DRIP”, which sounds like a leaky tap.
In Canada, the job of a financial adviser is at risk what with artificial intelligence taking over boring jobs of humans, and I invested some money with a robot adviser, called Wealth Simple, for my son.
It was crazy watching the frenzied daily activity of buying and selling of ETFs, stocks and building up of my son’s portfolio by the robot adviser.
I finally realised that being extremely rich or extremely poor is not good for the soul. Being middle class is boring but this is not the time to be adventurous.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi