What is Bootstrapping ? In general parlance, bootstrapping usually refers to a self-starting process that is supposed to proceed without external input. The term has gained prominence in ‘Start-up’ generation. Anyone who’s started a business on a shoestring is adept at bootstrapping, or stretching resources–both financial and otherwise–as far as they can.
Reid Hoffman – Founder of LinkedIn and author of my recent favorite book, The Startup of You – advocates that in 21st century individuals should also view their life as Startups. We have to be resourceful, adaptable and agile if we want to thrive in this competitive landscape. In that context, I think Bootstrapping is a vital skill. No individual can claim to have abundance of all resources. Any ambitious individual will face at least paucity of time or money, if not other resources. Thus bootstrapping can be an important quality for an individual. It can help govern one’s life and means of living.
Being a Gujarati – a tribe famous for its entrepreneurial spirit – I learned the skills to Bootstrap way before I had even learned the word. For me it is synonymous to frugality and living well within my means. At the age of 11 when I went for a Rock climbing trip for 11 days, I was given pocket money of INR 400. I even managed to save few bucks from that money. My mother said there is always some room to cut the corners !
Thus it was part of my lifestyle. As a result, when I started earning, the first check I wrote was for paying off my debt and the second check was to buy a Life and Medical insurance. Eventually in less than two years I have accumulated an emergency fund, I have invested small amount in 3 companies, I have a SIP in a Large cap and a Small cap mutual fund and I have a significant corpus in my PPF ( which my father opened in my name when I was a child ). I used to consider this as significant personal achievements. Until recently it only represented discipline, self-control and planning to me but I realized the flexibility and peace of mind it provides when my family was hit by a sudden medical emergency.
My father is diagnosed with Grade IV Astrosytoma ( a form of brain tumor). There are enough emotional, physical and medical things to worry and plan for, not having to plan your finance in such a time is literally a boon. No matter how affluent you are and how much insurance coverage you have, there are so many expenses you dont know where to account from. Insurance doesn’t pay for living in another city for world class treatment. No matter what your location such circumstances forces to want the best for our loved one within our extended reach. If you are living in Jamnagar you want to go to Ahemdabad, if you are living in Delhi you want doctors in New York to treat your loved one. ( Like Yuvraj Singh who went to US to get treated for his Cancer) And definitely the patient will not go alone to the new city, all the family members should be around.
Insurance and emergency funds doesn’t pay for food, transport and negative binge habits getting developed during difficult emotional time. All the above costs are directly related to the life style and standard of living you have had till now in life. You cant suddenly change them.
Not to make this post about advice and just sticking it to sharing my experience – To me frugality and not rushing to buy a car helped me have more than enough resources to make 6 flight trips to my home town in last 3 months. Spending more time with my family and being physically present is important not only for emotional support to my family but also to manage my worries. Not having any burden of any EMIs, I could also squeeze a good amount of lump sum to invest in my MFs in the last months stock market crash. I pray it doesn’t come to that – but my simple lifestyle and planning allows me to quit my job and go back to my family full time. I can sustain my same lifestyle for next one year without earning any money and yes, continue with my monthly SIP investment.
I dont think planning for worst and being pessimistic about life is the way to live. I think I have had my shares of luxury in last 2 years too. It includes a 10 day trip to Europe, spending on many personal experiences and I am also contemplating buying a personal treadmill in my house because health is important to me.
Bootstrapping and simplicity has definitely helped me keep life style in check and not be extravagant or showy about things I dont value. I dont aspire to buy a car, a house, a big TV, an I-phone or a wardrobe full with clothes. This is not against consuming things but in favor of renting things ! To me – Frugality and Bootstrapping have much deeper meaning. They guide my life decisions and thus happiness and standard of living. They don’t mean compromising on anything but preventing tomorrow’s expense today. They mean spending resources after relationship & experiences rather than material things.
What do you think ? What does Bootstrapping mean to you ? What are the limitations of such life style ? Please share your views
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