Thursday, February 1, 2018

Of Indian descent, but virtually a lifelong New Yorker, Anil Jethmal is often asked about the caste system in India.  Many confuse the "caste system" with the similar sounding "class system".  Anil Jethmal is quick to point out that the Indian caste system is vastly different from the American class system.

The class system, in the Western world, is generally about money.  The upper class is defined by those having more money than those in the middle class….and the middle class is defined by those having more money than those in the lower class.  Some might quip that the word “class” is a misnomer. However, in general American parlance, those with higher levels of monetary wealth are considered to be in a higher class.

In the Indian caste system, the wealthiest business people belong to just the third highest of the four caste levels.  The highest caste is the Brahman (spiritual)…then, the Kshatriya (warrior or ruler)….third, the Vaisya (skilled worker/businessman) and last, the Sudra (unskilled worker).  Thankfully, the caste classification of “untouchable”, a despicable period in Indian history,  no longer exists, having been banned in 1949.

The highest caste, the Brahmans, understand that making money, in itself, should not be an end, or even the sole means to an end.  They understand the need for balance and that contributing to the common good is a necessary ingredient to attain that balance—not just giving money, but also giving of one’s self.

Many Vaisyas (businessmen) in India instinctively aspire to a higher caste by attempting to incorporate those Brahman ideals not only into their daily lives, but also into their own day to day business.

From early childhood, Anil’s family adopted those ideals and led by example.  They demonstrated, time after time, how many spectacular successes can occur in business, seemingly effortlessly, when a truly worthy purpose was intrinsic to the goal. 

Anil Jethmal recalls his father speaking about “tapping into an energy” when one is doing what is right.  More than that, his father continued, those who do garner that energy never seemed to care who got the credit for a successful endeavor, often donating to others and giving of themselves anonymously.  As proof to his skeptical son, he pointed out that the best colleges and universities (with presumably the most accomplished alumni) receive the most and largest anonymous donations.

Through the years, Anil Jethmal recalls several instances where his father would act in a similar manner---often going well out of his way, in order to do the right thing---even if he thought no one was watching. It is a philosophy truly worth following.  And for Anil, it has the added benefit of connecting him to his family and to his heritage.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Are Student Loans Worth It?

Six months after graduating from Bowdoin College in 1987, Anil Jethmal received in the mail his student loan installment plan.  Only twenty-two years old and with an entry level financial advisor job with its associated entry level salary, reality began to set in for Anil that he had to start paying back tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

Was it all worth it?  Of course, it was.  Anil knew all the statistics.  For every dollar invested on an education at Bowdoin, the lifetime financial returns are considerably higher.  True to form, Anil was able to pay back every penny of his student loans with interest well before the 10-year allotted schedule. 

Anil Jethmal is well aware that his financial successes in life, including his being featured in The Winner’s Circle II: How 10 Stockbrokers Became the Best in the Business, can largely be attributed to his education.  However, he has since learned to appreciate his education in a much broader sense.

In a time where racial tensions in society have reached a boiling point, Anil recalls a conspicuous absence of racism during his entire 4 years at Bowdoin College.  Anil was aware that Bowdoin College is perennially ranked in the top 1% of all colleges in the U.S and, therefore, only accepts the best, the brightest and hardest working students. However, it wasn’t until he got there that he realized the wonderful by-product of Bowdoin’s vetting process.

Anil Jethmal, in a conversation with famed author and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, discussed the relative, if not total, lack of racism at Bowdoin.  Maya Angelou theorized that it was due to an abundance of “intellectual curiosity” on campus.

She held firmly that those with an “intellectual curiosity” don’t fear people who are different.  They want to know more about what and why others are different.  Those with an “intellectual curiosity” have healthy self-esteem—they don’t need to put down others to feel better about themselves.  

Through the years, Anil has found that his education has bettered him and broadened his own scope of interests in countless other ways. 

His studies of history, for example, inspire Anil often to choose vacations where he may explore new and exciting world cultures.  He feels that those who exclusively spend their vacations at the golf course or at the beach are bypassing some of the best that life has to offer.  Even with something as simple as food, Anil Jethmal finds, those with eclectic interests (inspired by intellectual curiosity) discover many wonderful ethnic cuisines that others may never know and enjoy.  

His enjoyment of the fine arts and for the symphony can be directly traced back to his incredibly engaging professors and the stunning facilities at Bowdoin.  The list goes on and on.

While so many may analyze the monetary benefits of an elite education in terms of financial returns, Anil feels that education has enriched his life in so many other ways.  And that, as the saying goes, is priceless.

Of Indian descent, but virtually a lifelong New Yorker, Anil Jethmal is often asked about the caste system in India.   Many confuse the ...