Money Mindfulness & Financial Wellness
“Money is this thing we made up and now we're more worried about it than our existential situation.” – Sol Halpern, Highlander: A Mindful Finance Company
Raised in a family of meditators, mindfulness practices were integrated into Sol Halpern's life at a very young age. Fast-forward into adulthood: Halpern's natural interest toward money and power seemed at odds with his upbringing; some 20 years ago when Halpern entered the workforce, meditation was not yet mainstream and certainly not embraced by the finance community. So Halpern kept that part of his life private. As Halpern advanced in his finance career, scientific evidence grew around neuroscience, and brain mapping revealed profound benefits of meditation. Finally, this new awareness made it logical for Halpern to integrate his background in mindfulness with his finance company, Highlander. Thus, Halpern's method of Mindful Finance was born. We asked Halpern to share his vision with us.
A lot of attention is given to “manifesting abundance” which often implies an unspoken financial aspect. And yet talking about money has always been taboo. Where does this disconnect stem from and can it be harmful?
Halpern: “The danger of not looking directly at your feelings about money is that you just perpetuate habits and storylines that you have around money that haven't worked for you. And you don't cut the root of any of those potential self-aggressive tendencies.
“You are missing an opportunity if you're not able or willing to just relax and look non-judgmentally at what your thoughts are as opposed to telling yourself what you should be feeling.”
What's the best way to make financial choices not borne out of anxiety or fear, but that come from your wisest self?
Halpern: “That is the whole fundamental premise of Mindful Finance. There is a way to do that that’s accessible to everyone. The one pith thing would be to stop trying to think your way through all the problems/questions/decisions, and start trying to feel them. Because we all have access to our own feelings, whether that's emotional or physical, and they are very intelligent.
“If you are worried about something, you can know that without knowing what you are going to do about it. But if you don't know that, you might mistake it, and think you're worried about something else.”
Financial problems are a leading cause of stress. So... how can developing a healthy relationship with money positively impact emotional wellbeing?
Halpern: “If you are able to access your best self, you will make better financial decisions. How to do that from a mindful finance perspective is to engage with this nonjudgmental awareness. It's the idea that you sit with whatever questions you have. Instead of getting lost in your head, you access the feelings, and those will lead you to ask the right questions that help you make decisions.
“It's not so much that you'll always know what to do. Although, some people do have that experience. You relax your mind. Then you don't judge what comes up as a good thought or a bad thought, right or wrong. An example might be, “I don't feel like I have enough information to make this decision yet. Just saying that aloud is really good, people can help you then.”
Do you have an exercise around mindful finance you might share?
Halpern: “There's a mindful finance technique (for financial questions or decision making) that we introduced, called, “Breathe, Feel, Speak.” Breathe: stop whatever else you're doing and pay attention to your experience in that moment. Breath is commonly used in meditation practices but you don't have to have a specific way of doing it. You can just feel yourself breathing. It brings you into the present moment and gives you access to your more resourced mind. Feel, is pay attention to what's there. Whatever it is, just feel. And speak, is activating. Don't keep to yourself whatever is there. Talk to a spouse. Ask a question to a friend, sibling, or parent. Or just write it down for yourself."
Since the pandemic, needs have changed, and certain stocks such as Zoom and Amazon soared, while others have plummeted... Going forward, how would you suggest deciding what's right to invest in?
Halpern: “The primary reason for investing is to make more money. And then, you can add on top of that things like not wanting to contribute to fossil fuel or weapons of mass destruction. Or maybe you want to support women led companies. So if you get those ideas around it, it gives you a little more framework. But I would suggest if you are investing your own money, do research around portfolio building and diversification, as opposed to saying, “Hey, I just learned Tesla is doing great so I'm going to put all my money into it.”
Describe what it means to have a “money awakening.” And is there something we can do today to move towards it?
Halpern: “It's the realization of bringing your financial life into your path of fulfillment and wellness. Rather than it would be something that comes later, something that is inconvenient or even flat out avoided. It's saying, this is an integral part of that."
Financial problems are a leading cause of stress. So how can developing a healthy relationship with money positively impact emotional wellbeing?
Halpern: “You can end up with less mystery and fear because you have looked, and you haven't avoided or perpetuated the same habits. And that makes you more confident. Because it's not the alligator that you don't see out there anymore. The things that you imagine are much worse than the things that are really there.
“Cheerfulness is borne out of an attitude of workability. It doesn't mean everything is fixed. It means it's workable. It's a balance of what we usually do with money: we get euphoric because we have a bunch of money, or despondent because nothing is working out. It's like this rollercoaster. Whereas, when you have balance, you can have this level of cheerfulness.
“The last one is generosity, which has to do with recognizing a feeling that you do have resources. And you see that the suffering you had around this money thing, you can see in other people as well. Naturally, you want them to be able to have less suffering from money also. Sometimes that could be giving money. But it could also be generosity in any way shape or form. You have to feel resourced to feel generous.”
What is financial wellness?
Halpern: “How I would define financial wellness would be having a situation that is sustainable and workable. That's as much about your own mental view as it is about numbers.”
Biggest Misconception about money?
Halpern: “It's that it's somehow separated from humanity. On lots of levels. Money and the financial system that you exist within, they inform each other. At the societal level somehow people think money is its own force. We made it up, right? It's just an idea we had that we all agreed on. It's not separate from ourselves. It tells us about ourselves. So we are ultimately, completely in control of it.”
If you think about it, Halpern’s concept of mindful finance could be thought of as the embodiment of the body/mind connection; by integrating financial matters with your thoughts and emotions, as well as experiencing how money affects you physically, it becomes part of life’s natural balance. This awareness helps you achieve financial wellness, which Halpern describes as, “a situation that is sustainable and workable. That's as much about your own mental view as it is about numbers.” Halpern works with clients remotely, and tailors his approach to each client's individual needs and objectives. To find out more visit Highlander: A Mindful Finance Company.