Home / Opinion / Columns /  Jackpot mindset: lessons from a diamond farmer

Not everybody can be a Lakhan Yadav, the 45-year-old Madhya Pradesh farmer, who spent 200 on a diamond stake and found a 60 lakh winner. And not everyone can be Yadav in the manner in which he is dealing with his win—after a celebratory mobike spend, he will use the fixed deposit (FD) route to park the money and educate his four children. Not everybody finds a jackpot, and fewer still find the equality of mind to deal with the jackpot when it is indeed found.

The search for a jackpot is not restricted to poor farmers leasing diamond mines or those who buy lottery tickets that sustains a 50,000-crore-a-year industry, it extends to white-collar professionals who also dream of that one punt that will get them rich overnight. Over the entire lockdown period I would have done at least 30 webinars of groups between 30 and 1,000 people at a time. Many groups were kind enough to fill a small questionnaire that mapped their money worries. The worries were the usual mix of too many goals, too little money, confusing marketplace, trust deficit for older people and too heavy lifestyle costs, and student loans for the younger cohorts. International groups of young adults almost always had issues of credit card loans and very high student loans to repay. While they ticked all the boxes of worrying about goals and spends, some of their questions during the webinar were focused on finding that one great deal or product that would be the winner.

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The jackpot mindset is deeply ingrained in most of us and we look for that one deal that will change our lives forever. Most jackpot-seeking questions are around the current fad. Today it is cryptocurrencies, foreign tech stocks and day trading strategies. A decade ago, the proximity of new sunrise locations to an upcoming airport, the metro or the change in land use insider information were all reasons to punt on a few hundred square feet flat. Before that, it was buying emus. Or teak farms. Or even an online deal that would make you super rich if you just found enough fools to buy a web magazine from you.

I find a trend in the jackpot-seeking questions—the younger cohorts strongly believe that they will indeed find a deal like that, but the older cohorts are more practical and having made their mistakes of leveraged investing and having seen their money stuck in unfinished buildings, are more willing to take a safer and steadier route to long-term money. My response to the one-deal-will-fix-my-life seekers is always this—have you asked yourself enough questions as you chase a rainbow to find that pot of gold? Yes, jackpots happen, but what are the chances that it will happen to you? How much are you willing to stake on this jackpot? And what do you plan to do with the money if indeed you win the jackpot? Money can come to you, but will you have the mental strength of Yadav to stay with the products he understands? Do you have a plan B ready in case your punt fails to pay and you lose your entire money? This question is a must-ask for those venturing into leveraged deals—it is a good idea to ask the person selling that deal to write down the worst-case scenario of this deal. You may not want to hand over money for this deal once you see that not just what you have invested, but what you stand to lose over and above that is far greater.

But I can understand that the jackpot itch is one that does not go away. One way to deal with this is to keep 95% of your money in a boring financial plan—according to goals, risk-taking abilities and in products that you do understand. Keep 5% to chase your jackpot dream—whether it is stocks, day trading or a new kind of elf that will gift you golden bits every now and then. The lessons from the farmer (according to news reports, he is not a marginal farmer but owns two hectares of land and some livestock) who spent a tiny fraction of what he owns, just 200 on a 10x10 feet mine to try his luck. Having been lucky, he is going to stay conservative and use financial products he knows—FDs—to build a future for this family. Some global MBAs I have been speaking to can take lessons from Yadav and benefit.

Monika Halan is consulting editor at Mint and writes on household finance, policy and regulation

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