How much is enough?

by Sahadev Komaragiri

How much bank balance do we really need before we can say goodbye to the cubicle nation and start pursuing our dreams? I must admit that this question troubled me with sleepless nights for several months before I quit my day job.

If you are anything like me, you probably come from a very humble background. I am sure you were provided with a nice place to live in, decent clothes to wear, good food to eat and the necessary education in the field of your choosing. The education that you received is your mainstay and it provided you with a living for the rest of your life. Only God knows how your parents managed to give you everything you needed while not desiring anything for themselves. You were taught to put your wants at bay and safeguard the needed items that were provided to you. You learnt how to sew a torn shirt, protect your books with brown covers, use a pencil to its last bit and keep your books ready for the next member of the family. Until you reached the college life and started being on your own it never occurred to you that you were not having enough.

You probably took a small loan to pay for your semester fees at an engineering college. It was perhaps the first time that you realized that your family was making ends meet and that’s all. Things like emergency funds, fixed deposits and retirement plans were unheard of. Your only goal during your engineering days was to get done with the degree and pay off the small loan. That was just enough, you thought, for you to feel liberated.

Fast forward a few years and you probably left for the US or some distant shores to pursue a Masters degree. You probably took another loan and this time the loan is a much bigger one. While pursuing the Masters degree the only goal of your life would be to pay off this loan. That was enough and you would need nothing else. A few weeks into the campus life you got your first credit card along with a free t-shirt! That got you new freedom and new spending power that you never had before. By the time you are done with the University, you ended up with a much bigger loan than you initially had. Starting with the first job, the only goal you had was to pay off all the loans from college days and then you would have enough to be free to do whatever you like.

The first job took care of a part of the loans you had but you needed that fancy car that you had been eyeing ever since you entered the foreign land. You asked yourself if I don’t enjoy life at this age when will I? I know of several fresh graduates who bought a very expensive first car much before they figured out how to stay calm on the freeways while being overtaken by semi trailer trucks. You got married and then you started attending house warming ceremonies. The need to own a house is now very persistent and difficult to take off of your mind. The real estate is real and you will never lose money on a house. Why pay rent when you can own? So, you visit an agent who convinces you that you can afford a much bigger home than you think you need. It is difficult to disagree when someone sees your worth and potential to be much higher than what you imagined for yourself. So you bought the house and all its accouterments – a vaulted ceiling, step down family room, large basement, a fireplace, granite countertops for the kitchen, large king size bed for your bedroom, a comfortable queen size bed for the guest room, a six seat dining table that suits the large dining room, a couch for the living room and a large sofa set for the family room and a big size TV that adorns the space next to the fireplace. If you were in the US, they would tell you that it is difficult to sell a house that does not have a basement or a fireplace. Congratulations, as your friends would tell you, you have made it in life. You are now living a dream. There is one missing detail though. You have to pay for the house and you and your spouse sit down to promise yourselves that you are going to pay off the mortgage in half the time. To make this happen both of you resolve to work very hard. It is enough, you both start to think, to pay off the house to start living a life of freedom. While at that it does not hurt to buy a new car every few years.

Wait a minute, if I pay off this house and start living in this house where will I get the money to put the food on the table when I retire or obtain freedom from my day job? The security of paying off the house loan goes down the drain if I cannot protect the house with some supplementary income. So you think. Your friends talk to you about investment properties that are paid for by the rental income. You are convinced and you invest in that. You and your wife decide to work a little harder to pay off both the mortgages. Kids enter your life and each month that extra mortgage payment takes a backseat. The daily grind of 8 to 8 work takes its toll. You will notice that the line of thinking of your manager is completely different from your own. You need a new higher paying job. The cycle continues; once you have this one thing taken care you will have enough to say goodbye to your day job and start pursuing your dreams. This might be my story or of scores of others whether they live in India or in distant shores. Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this approach. It is an unsustainable and wrong model to use if you have other burning desires that you put off until this model comes to its logical conclusion. In my opinion there is no meaningful conclusion to this model; our humble background makes us think that there is!

The lesson that we learn is that there can never be enough of anything. By the time we realize that, it is mostly too late and we are rusted and tired. In the olden days farmers use a simple technique to make their cows walk. They put a bunch of grass strands at a foot length. The farmer ensures that this bunch stays constantly at a distance of one foot. The cow tries to reach it by walking a step towards it and notices that it had moved further and then takes one more step. This way the cow keeps walking in vain pursuit of the food that stays dangling continuously a foot away. Just to keep the hopes alive, the farmer feeds the cow a little bit every now and then. The cow keeps walking without realizing what is happening. What is enough for us works exactly the same way. It is a moving target that moves away from us as soon as we reach out to hold on to it. Sometimes we feel the contentment but we return to pursue what is still missing in our lives.

So, did I arrive at a satisfactory number on how much is enough for me to quit my job and pursue my dreams? I would be lying to you if I said no. But I cannot reveal that number to you. If I did, half of you would think that I am incredibly stupid to think that I can manage my life with such a small amount. The other half would think that they can manage their lives with half as much. Both the assessments are of no help to either of us! You should decide what is right. The key differentiator for me is this: I decided to develop the ability to do what I want to do and drop the desire to have the ability to buy what I want to. To be honest I do not know if I have enough, but God has given me the necessary strength to think that this is enough.

Disclaimer: This article is a direct result of the promise I made that I will document my new life. At the time of this writing this is what is going on in my mind about the life I chose and the means I adopted. It is clearly not my intent to play up or play down any lifestyle. I am just reflecting on what I did and what I realized in the process.

Packing started! We are getting quotes from a few movers. I am still planning on being in India by June 24.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ramakrishna Chunduri June 14, 2011 at 11:39 am

What is sufficient. It is a million dollar question for millions of people. This question is not only for those who want to relocate. It is a question to be answered honestly by all of us who reach certain stage in life.The answer comes from in fact another question what gives you happiness and what is your definition of happiness. This boils down to our ability to understand the purpose and goals of life. I feel spiritual thinking is the only possible solution. I am not suggesting you to get away from realities. But deciding the priorities in life will help you to come to an understanding on this issue, which i think you have already done. Next interesting issue is do we have to live for children. Spiritually no two souls have identical agendas including husband and wife. It is an endless topic. All the best.


Sahadev Komaragiri June 15, 2011 at 4:49 am

Thanks for your inputs. True, this is a question that we need to ask ourselves very frequently. Spirituality holds answers to many questions including this one. But the concept of spirituality loses its potency if it is not applied to our daily life. In my opinion spirituality for the sake of exchanging profound ideas with deep philosophical meanings is of no use. Unless there is a practical daily usage, we will not realize its true potential. My dad, Sri KYL Narasimha Rao, told us many times that excess of anything and everything must be avoided. It is an age old sanskrit adage – ati sarvatra vyajeth. It rings in my ears more now than ever before. Our upbringing and our spirituality teaches many things like these, but our problem lies in our practice.
It is an interesting question to ask: Do we have to live for our children? I think we do not have to live for our children or for that matter anyone, but we must fulfill our roles and responsibilities with unquestionable love and care but with the kind of detachment that Bhagavad-gita preaches. This is true whether it is our friends, parents, siblings, relatives or even children. Whether love and detachment can go hand in hand is another topic for another day!


Susmita July 4, 2011 at 12:36 am

I came across your article probably because I’ve been pondering over ramifications of the same phenomenon of excess that has invaded so many of our lives, and likeminded people tend to connect no matter how. I had some time ago jotted down some of my thoughts on this. Leaving you the link here…would definitely like your feedback.


Sahadev Komaragiri July 4, 2011 at 8:46 am

Susmita, Thanks for your comments. I am happy to note that more and more people are now realizing the problems with excessive consumption. There is a growing movement of minimalism around the world. and are two of my favourite sites. It is a problem when we identify ourselves with our possessions rather than with our inner being. I had gone through your post. You have articulated your thoughts very well. Please continue to pen down your thoughts on this subject.


sreeram July 18, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Very nice blog! As I was reading through this, I felt like I am reading my own story. Very happy that you were able to make that leap of faith!

So, if someone is the same situation as you are and he/she feels he had enough, where does he/she start?



Jay Sitamraju September 11, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Dear Sahadev,
I have read the BLOG and couldn’t restrain myself from adding a comment from philosophical perspective. It is impossible to answer the question that triggered the topic — How much is enough? Human tendency always forces one to keep one’s target as moving target with time as explained in farmer’s example to make his cow move. Almighty will provide required resources needed for survival to all beings since all are his children. I heard following padyam that affirms above belief in Swami Vidyaprakasananda Giri Swamiji’s discourse on Bhagavad Gita (12th Chapter Bhakthi Yogam):

Puttaboyedi bullibojjayi kosamai podugu ginneku paalu posi posi
Kaliki vennelaluru chaluva dosillato lataku maarakulatiki latiki
Poola kanchalalo rolambamulaku repati bhojanambu sidha parachi parachi
Tellavaraka munupu moggalalona jorabadi vinta vintala rangulu vesi vesi …

Above padyam indicates that Almighty makes all possible arrangements to feed babies prior to their birth; New leaves are pasted to all kinds of creepers that were bare in prior evening since leaves are needed to absorb sunlight to generate food for plant via photosynthesis;Honey is prepared in flower pots in anticipation of guest bees (rolambamulu) and finally flowers are painted in various colours ….

Enough is never enough . Human mind demands more, more, and more thereby keeping one’s target always moving with time. Humans can only use their faculty of discrimination (viveka) to find the answer. Hope it is not too late to realize the answer to the question in one’s life.



N. Ravichandran November 23, 2012 at 9:23 am

Hi Sahadev,
One of my friends with whom I was discussing my finalised plans for an early retirement from active corporate life referred me to this blog and I found this quite nice.
If I am not too inquisitive (not that the response will dictate my decision since I have very clearly made up my mind and I am a month away from implementing my decision), how did you find in the last one and half a years since you are back in India?


Sahadev Komaragiri November 23, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Hi Ravi,

The last one and half year has been the best ever. I sometimes regret not making this move earlier. However there are a number of lessons I learnt. I hope you do not have to learn the same lessons I learnt the hard way. If you are interested in catching up with me, please do not hesitate to drop me a line.


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