Deepak Chopra on the Connection Between Wellness and Personal Finance

Many people don’t think of their finances as a major component of their overall well-being, but one of the most respected wellness gurus in the world thinks they should. In this Jan. 8 Fool Live video clip, contributors Matt Frankel, CFP, and Jason Hall talk with Dr. Deepak Chopra about the connection between wellness and your wallet. 

Matt Frankel: You’re obviously a very well-known expert on wellness. But I was surprised to hear you were partnering with Personal Capital on a financial matter. Because a lot of people don’t normally make the connection between finance and overall wellness. Would you care to expand what led you to partner with Personal Capital and the connection that you see?

Deepak Chopra: There are many reasons. One is that I have always believed in abundance as a natural experience of life, abundance in all its forms, which means health, relationships. My definition of success is only one thing, joy. If you don’t have joy, you don’t have success. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. I started my career in this country with nothing, zero. When I came to this country I didn’t have a dollar. I got seduced by a culture where you’re able to buy things that you didn’t need with the money that you hadn’t earned to impress people that you didn’t like. I realized [laughs] that money was the core source of all stress in the world. I also realized that money is a human construct, just like latitude and longitude, Greenwich Meridian Time, Wall Street. We made it up. How do we negotiate our relationship with abundance is why I joined this effort to show people that money is very important. But it’s how you spend the money, how you earn the money, [laughs] and is it bringing joy to you. If it’s not, then it’s useless.

Jason Hall: The Motley Fool’s mission I think is appropriate to share with you, Dr. Chopra. It’s to help people be smarter, happier, and richer. There’s an obvious connotation for a company that makes a living selling people subscriptions to pick stocks. But I can tell you it has a deeper meaning for most of us here. I would love to hear your thoughts on talking about finances and wellness and that tension between using finances as a source of abundance versus the things that you were talking about, and how it can be a source of pain and problem. I would like to hear your thoughts about the idea of wealth and richness, and what those terms really mean to you.

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Chopra: I’ve been on the scientific advisory board of the Gallup organization where we look at well-being in all its different aspects, in all its different buckets. One of the buckets of well-being is financial well-being. The other buckets of well-being include career well-being, meaning and purpose in your job well-being, social well-being, friends, family, professional well-being, physical well-being, community well-being, and ultimately, emotional and spiritual well-being, which are the most important anyway. But in that context, if you look at the data on financial well-being, you find that people who are financially secure are the ones who are actually not only making wise decisions in how they save money, earn money, and spend money, but they are also enjoying their money. People who are financially secure, first of all, they have safety. They feel safe. They have insurance, they have disability, they have retirement, they have vacation benefits, and all that. That’s number one. They have different mechanisms in their financial management where they don’t have money as a source of stress, number one. Number two, financially secure people spend more on experience than on products. Because it’s been realized that you can buy this iPhone 9, and then after six months iPhone 10, and after seven months iPhone 11, and the only difference is the camera. [laughs] I’m sure a lot of you don’t even know the difference. People who are wise and secure about money don’t spend that much money on products or redundancy. They spend money on experiences, on a vacation, on going out for a night with your family and friends, entertainment, on courses, on seminars, on education, on their children, on their grandchildren, on philanthropy. This gives people much more financial security and also enjoyment from their money. They like to spend money. They also save money, but they don’t hoard it. I know a lot people, for example, who are hoarders. They just hoard, hoard, hoard, hoard. That becomes a source of anxiety, a lot of people who confuse net-worth with self-worth. Depending on the stock market in the evening is everything that is about life, whether they have sex in the evening or whether they go to a restaurant [laughs] or whether they smile or whether they scream at their spouse, all depends on what happened in the stock market. Self-worth and net-worth is totally confused. There’s also research that shows that money is an important part of our, what we call happiness experience, but not the most important part. If you look at what people call happiness formulas, that 50 percent of your happiness comes from your attitude to life. Do you see the world as a problem or as opportunity? Now, that has about to do with how you trade in the stock market. Are you seeing problems? Are you seeing opportunities? That’s a very big difference between successful investors and unsuccessful investors. People who are happy have a set point that looks for opportunities instead of problems. The second component is the money itself. If you win the lottery, you’ll be ecstatic. You’ll be very happy. But after six months, you’ll return to your set point, and after a year, you may be actually unhappier because now you’re all concerned about taxes and [laughs] all the things that go with money being your identity. Money adds about 12-15 percent of your total happiness experience. The third part of the happiness quotient, formula, equation is what we call daily personal choices, sum up of personal pleasure: sex, food, entertainment, alcohol, shopping. Do they make you happy? Yes, but only transiently. If you went on a shopping spree, you’ll be excited today. Tomorrow you may be regretting. Three days later you may be depressed. But if you find meaning and purpose in your life, if you have the ability to make other people happy, and if you’re generous in how you spend money, generosity of spirit, that makes you very happy. That puts money in context, about 15 percent of your daily happiness experience.

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Hall: Matt.

Frankel: I want to get back to what you were saying about how people confuse their net-worth and self-worth. One thing that people struggle with a lot, especially on our shows, that we’ve heard from listeners, is failures when it comes to money. How do you get past failures? For example, if I make a bad investment, which pretty much everyone that’s listening has done at one point or another. If I spend money foolishly, not the Motley Fool foolishly, but the bad way, how do you get past that and move forward? How would you advise people to deal with financial failure and move forward in a positive way?

Chopra: I think any failure can be reframed as a learning experience so you don’t repeat the same [laughs] mistakes. But you don’t say I’m never going to make a mistake again, because if you don’t make mistakes and you don’t take risks, you’re never going to have an adventure, and life should be an adventure. Otherwise, life becomes an algorithm. I think human existence is based on enjoyment. Enjoy. Take risks, make mistakes. Don’t make the same mistakes over and over again, that’s being a fool. Otherwise, reframe failure as a learning lesson.

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