For years I've tried to keep a daily meditation habit. Every time I read a new study about how meditation can improve your health, I vow to start again and to do it every day. Sadly, the habit lasts for about a week. But I recently learned about a non-health reason to meditate: Some money experts credit it with their financial success.
For instance, Reuters reported that some of the most successful hedge fund managers credit their success to meditation. According to the article, money managers who meditate cite the following benefits:
In a crisis situation, they're able to remain calm and focus on what's most important.
They are more willing to accept reality for what it is. For example, they report that meditation has made them less likely to succumb to “confirmation bias,” which is the tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions, regardless of whether the information is true.
They believe they are more creative at problem-solving.
Brent Kessel, cofounder of investment firm Abacus Portfolios, shows people how to combine good money management practices with meditation and yoga, arguing that most money problems start internally. “No matter if they are rich or poor, everyone struggles with money,” said Kessel in an interview for U.S. News. “I counsel people who have hundreds of millions [of dollars] of net worth and others who are $100,000 in debt. The money doesn't seem to make a difference. The patterns that people are stuck in seem to go on and on, year after year, regardless of how many self-help books they read and what financial planner they're working with.”
In the interview, Kessel says that a big source of unhappiness (and money problems) is the “wanting mind,” which is never satisfied.
But the wanting isn't just about wanting and buying material stuff. “Virtually everything that passes in our minds has a wanting component to it,” said Kessel. “When you see that, you see it's insatiable…The issue is: Are you blindly following an endless train of [desires], where as soon as you satiate one, another pops into its place?”
If so, Kessel says that meditation can break that cycle. “A big part of it is where you put your attention — if you put your attention on what you already have and what is enough,” he says. “One way to do that is when your mind is saying, ‘I don't have enough,' you ask yourself if that's true. It's a surrender game. You get to that place where that voice starts to lose more and more of its power.”
I'm definitely aware of my own “wanting mind.” It wants everything from a new fall wardrobe to homemade pumpkin spice lattes to a swimming pool in a xeriscaped backyard. I blame Pinterest.
The lack of data
Of course, unlike the studies on the health benefits of meditation, the benefits to your finances are difficult quantify.
For instance, hedge fund managers can't really prove that meditation increases their creativity. “It may simply be that calm people are more able to be creative than frenzied ones, or it might in turn [out to] be that meditators wrongly attribute their good ideas to the practice,” writes James Saft for Reuters. “The lack of data is probably the biggest impediment to evaluating the impact of meditation on investment performance. It is also why we are not likely to see it becoming a widespread marketing point for fund managers any time soon.”
But the results, whether or not they can be quantified, caught the attention of at least one business school: In 2013, Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business announced that it would begin to offer a semester-long class on meditation.
Another reason to try again
Whether or not the financial benefits can be quantified, I suspect that meditation is beneficial for money management, even if it's only indirectly beneficial.
For instance, debt can be a huge source of anxiety and depression. When I had credit card debt, I definitely had anxiety about it. I hated opening the bank statements. I even hated checking the mail, for that matter. But meditation has been shown to ease anxiety and depression. And it seems reasonable to assume that someone in a more positive frame of mind will get out of debt faster than someone who feels like the situation is hopeless.
At any rate, it's just one more reason that I want to give daily meditation another try. Now if only I could sit still long enough to do it…
Readers, what do you think? Would you try meditation as a way to improve your finances?