Yoga & Money: Warrior 2 or Downward Facing Debt?
The for Center for Retirement Research at Boston College is a fancy institution that was created to develop and produce academic and relevant information about retirement patterns and behaviors in the United States.
We've recently become more aware of their Squared Away Blog. The latest blog entry "Saving is a Lot Like Yoga" really had the faculty here at BetterDecisions.money curious and enthusiastic about the blog's message.
"Like yoga, saving is also a practice," and the older generations are better at it than the younger generations. The data cited reflects this in a recent Wall Street Journal article that affirms that, "young Americans have stopped saving."
We're a little mixed about this set of articles and research. Elizabeth May, one of the faculty members at BetterDecisions.money, had this to say:
"I love this post because I resonated with the language based on my own 13-year yoga practice.
But I find that the "try" to save more concept--doesn't work as advice. I'm probably one of the most disciplined savers I know, and I can "try" to save more, but I always fail when I "try". This advice could be one of the debilitating reasons why younger Americans don't save as well as older generations: they're given the wrong advice and the wrong information.
Trying seems to imply "effort", "more will-power", etc. It's the hard way, and set up for us humans with our reptilian brains to fail. But having only recovered from the recession, with few options to invest money in any meaningfully way for a consistent return greater than inflation, stagnant wages, ballooning student debt, unprecedented high health care costs, and caring for aging parents, etc, I find that criticizing an already financially squeezed generation perhaps is not sage advice which will lead to actually help young Americans.
Are the spending too much today and forgoing wealth in the future as a result? Probably, but making that point, or shaming their choices, won't improve or alter their behavior for the better.
For me, a young (ish) American, in fact, a true Millennial, I can easily accelerate my savings because...I don't try to save, I just do save: automatically.
As with my yoga practice, I love the long term benefits, however, short-term, I do yoga because I made the appointment in my calendar to attend a class; I paid money to go to a class and I had no other alternative to do anything else for that 60-90 minutes. It was no longer a "try", but mandatory, like a client meeting, you don't "try" to make a client meeting, you just do it, you show up automatically.
With savings, stressing automation first, then figuring out the details of how much to save over time, was the only way I was able to accelerate my savings. "Just start a savings account for $10 for now, and then increase it over time," I'd tell myself, because opening the account and setting up the auto-payment each month is the hardest part, even if it's only for $1 per month or $10 per month.
The blog emphasizes "dedicating time and attention" to your finances, because that combination can equate with increasing and improving a "savings practice". But "time spent worrying about savings" without actionable advice, will not lead to an improved "savings practice," and will only stress out young Americans further and lead them to follow bad advice such as: "just keep trying to save."
But it doesn't take any effort to automate savings. You take the "try" out of finances all together, and just do. Once you have automated savings set up, in separate preferably hard to reach accounts like those offered through www.capitalone360.com (formerly INGDirect.com), with monthly payments scheduled, savings becomes: boring, less dramatic, and requires zero effort.
Maybe my conclusion would be: "Saving is a lot like YODA," as Yoda would say, "Try not, only do." Automate your savings, and get on with your life!
A more gentler commentary on this blog post is followed up by Monqiue San Miguel, another BetterDecisions.money faculty member as she states: "I love the yoga reference and I LOVE yoga! Early on in my yoga practice, I found myself a bit self conscious in my first few classes. My gaze was always on those practicing next to me or in front of me. I was always looking at what everyone else was doing to see if I was doing the poses 'right.' Ugh, I can't stretch that far.... my leg won't bend that way.... why can't I get my leg straight or get my hips high enough in downward dog?! And then the instructor said something. She didn't say it directly to me. It was more of a gentle reminder to all of us who were practicing in class that day. She said 'don't look at your neighbor, look straight ahead at your own reflection. Don't compare your practice or your execution of the poses to those around you. Focus on you. Focus on your pose. Focus on how that pose feels today. If the look and feel isn't right today, keep trying and one day it will get there. This is a personal practice. Don't mind what is going on around you.'
Not only did that totally resonate with me and help alleviate the self conscious feelings I felt in class, but she was totally right. Those self conscious feelings slowly went away once I became more comfortable with the postures and the names of all the poses, but even beyond finding comfort in familiarity and creating habit in the practice, the instructor was right. Yoga is a personal journey and we're missing the point if we are too busy looking at what everyone is doing around us rather than looking inward and soaking up that personal time and the endorphins of the exercise for our self. Guess what?! Personal finances are the same! While some may find it helpful to look at benchmarks for comparison to try to answer the questions 'am I saving enough?' 'am I saving more or less than my peers?' "am I behind or ahead?" we're missing the point if comparison is our sole focal point. Saving and investing and keeping our personal finances healthy can be just as meditative as yoga. Knowing you are doing something financially healthy by keeping some of that hard earned money for YOU is a stress reliever. Don't mind your neighbor. Your peers will save, or not save. Invest, or not invest. Focus on what makes you feel good financially. You do you.
Mixed reviews on the blog posts coming out of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College's blog from the folks here at BetterDecisions.money. Either way you slice it:
Personal finance is called 'Personal' for a reason; there are many paths to creating a financial plan designed for individuals and families to succeed and get ahead financially.