NOTICE | SAVE YOURSELF: Give thanks, then think about retirement; gratitude rewards
Are you struggling to find the will to save for your retirement? Try to practice gratitude.
Last week I attended the Power of the Purse Luncheon for the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas. One of the winners, Beverly Morrow, beautifully featured in High Profile two weeks ago, has said something worth repeating and fleshing out.
First tomorrow. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rutgers graduate with a master’s degree in chemical engineering and a very successful McDonald’s franchise co-owner with her husband, she’s the kind of person you want to pay close attention to when she talks. My husband and I each own businesses, and the nuggets of wisdom from successful people are rare gems to us.
That’s why I found it quite unusual to turn to Dr Google after Beverly answered the question, “What is the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?” “
[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLWuu67SCU8]
She replied, “Always be grateful no matter what. Even when times are bad, there is always something to be thankful for.
Eh? Shouldn’t the answer have been to strive for better EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization] or the secret strategy for employee retention? Her best advice for life was: gratitude?
The concept of gratitude is no stranger to me. I have seen gratitude journals and gratitude yoga practices, as well as an assortment of gratitude programs. Why spend time journaling gratitude when I could write about a new business idea or hire pages to work on anger and resentment towards all those who underestimated me, rejected me, made me obstacle and have judged me unfairly? There’s a productive journal right there.
But when Morrow speaks, I listen and I Google. It turns out that gratitude is pretty good for us in a lot of ways, but what caught my eye was the relationship between gratitude and money. Turns out it’s pretty strong.
The Journal of Positive Psychology published in 2015 a study titled “In Search of Happiness in All the Wrong Places: The Moderating Role of Gratitude and Affect in Materialism – The Life Satisfaction Relationship.”
The study begins by confirming the negative relationship between happiness and materialism. This is something we know intellectually but always succumb to traps. So let’s start by being on the same wavelength to define materialism: it’s making the acquisition of “stuff” the ambition of your life.
No one wants to identify with materialism, but we are a materialistic culture. Our dreams are often linked to the acquisition of things. Even vacations can get materialistic these days, as they are less about getting away from it all and discovering new places and more about creating the perfect Instagrammable moment.
If that’s not you, congratulations! But folks, it’s probably you. It’s me.
I have admitted here several times just a small percentage of what I want to buy for so many reasons, most of them inauthentic to who I am.
We buy “stuff” for all kinds of reasons, but it’s often when we feel a little less self-worth than we would like. Maybe we don’t consciously do it, but where do we think the term “retail therapy” comes from?
Short-term purchases will enlighten the brain for a short time, but the effects wear off as our brain regains balance. We are reinstalling ourselves in the original problem that we were trying to solve. And, if we made these purchases with “borrowed dollars,” we end up adding a new kind of stress: financial. So what is the solution ?
Gratitude, says James Roberts. Materialistic people without gratitude exhibited lower life satisfaction. But grateful people were happier people.
In another study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Nathaniel Lambert, Frank Fincham, Tyler Stillman, and Lukas Dean made the connection that gratitude diminishes materialism. Gratitude helps us see the world from different angles and more fundamentally strengthens positivity and social connections. The study found that these feelings of gratitude reduced materialism. Why? People were happier with life.
But my question is how the gratitude that makes us more satisfied with life can then make us more willing to save for retirement.
Shankar Vidantam asked psychologist David DeSteno on the Hidden Brain podcast to explain the link between gratitude and self-control. Remember, self-control is essential for saving money.
In his study, DeSteno tested self-control in the same way as using the famous marshmallow tests on toddlers. Except that for these adult subjects, he was using money. The test was simple. He asked, “Would you rather have x dollars now or y dollars in z days, where y was always greater than x and z varied over days, weeks, or months?”
The basic result was that people were quite impatient. “People were willing, for example, to take $ 17 now and give up $ 100 a year from now on. In other words, I guarantee you $ 100 in a year, but would you be willing to forgo that if I gave you $ 17 now? “
Most people have taken the $ 17 now.
But asking participants to do a simple act of reflecting on what they were grateful for almost doubled (to $ 31) what they would take now to give up the future $ 100.
In other words, “it essentially doubled their self-control.” When they conducted the experiment by asking people to remember something good or happy, what was the dollar amount they took to forgo $ 100? $ 17 again.
Thanks, guys. It’s a powerful tool that doesn’t distract the mind – it modifies it.
So how do you practice gratitude? Beverly offers a simple solution to remember and think about all the reasons to be thankful in your life, both good and bad.
If this seems obvious, it is not! If I’m going through a negative event and calling my girlfriend to let off steam, I don’t want her asking me to quickly list the 10 things I’m grateful for! But that’s exactly what we need to do, especially when our emotions are trying to convince us that there isn’t much to be thankful for.
But wait, there is more. We can develop a gratitude practice, and one of the best ways to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. Turns out there is a bit of science to this form of journaling.
According to the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley, it’s best to keep a gratitude journal a few days a week – daily practice can be overdone and numb you in practice – and should be people-oriented and detailed in the description of the way they have benefited our lives. Also, remember that these people and experiences are gifts, so we don’t fall into the trap of taking them for granted.
My own interpretation of this practice is that we can continually wash away gratitude on ourselves and drown out negative emotions. According to DeSteno, we think emotions are about the past, but they’re not. They talk about the future. Gratitude is the wheel of the car – we can let negative emotions drive us to our retail therapy quick fix or we can let gratitude steer us to a walk in the woods or some quality time with friends or family or even an impromptu planning session to bypass a difficult barrier or obstacle with new ideas.
As DeSteno says, “By making people thankful, it changes the way their brains value over time. in any type of corrective strategy. “
In other words, gratitude can be more powerful than some of the brain tricks we’ve discussed in previous columns, like hiding money in an account or using automation to save money behind our backs. Instead, gratitude creates a direct link between our current self and hope in our future self and in our future situation – that hope is worth funding, for example, when it comes to saving for retirement.
When threatened by difficult times, Morrow argues that “being grateful changes my attitude and gives me hope.” Gratitude helps us weather storms that can sabotage our dreams for the future.
So quick, think of something you are grateful for. Next, think about your future you, namely a retired you. Do you have any hope that this will be possible? Great. Now go fund it.
Sarah Catherine Gutierrez is Founder, Partner and CEO of Aptus Financial in Little Rock. She is also the author of the book “But First, Save 10: The One Simple Money Move That Will Change Your Life”, published by Et Alia Press. Contact her at [email protected]