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Imagine losing all your savings. Now imagine losing all your savings because of the (deceased) con man Bernie Madoff, who took over $50 billion worth of investments from clients in a Ponzi scheme.
That’s what happened to bestselling author and speaker Geneen Roth and her husband in 2009. His friends suggested he focus on the positive, but he couldn’t stand behind that advice, at least then. “This wasn’t the time to be spiritual… This is the time to be hysterical,” he told me on my podcast.
Soon, Roth realized that in order to pick up the pieces and renew his financial life, he needed to move away from self-loathing and focus on what he hadn’t lost—his health, home, marriage, and talents. The wealth left in his life, being grateful for the precious things Madoff didn’t steal from him, taught him some critical lessons and gave him the strength to take action. He returned to writing, a skill that helped him build a great literary career. Someone wrote new articles about the Madoff fiasco and turned it into a book. The money is starting to come back,” he said.
The shift from shame to gratitude also led Roth to appreciate money more deeply. “It taught me to be much more diligent, much more careful about both where I spend my money and where I invest it… To align with my values, the things I truly care about,” he said.
I know most of us are tired of hearing the power of gratitude on Thanksgiving, especially when most Americans face daily struggles with the high cost of living, inflation, and job insecurity. But it has been scientifically proven that gratitude helps people progress and attract more wealth. A well-cited 2016 Northeastern University study found that embracing the good in our lives today makes us want to value and protect the future more.
When I spoke to the study’s co-author, David DeSteno, he said that gratitude builds patience. It allows you to slow down and reflect, and better appreciate long-term gains, as opposed to instant gratification. As a result, we can make less snap decisions about money and focus instead on achieving financial goals like retirement or college savings. Building financial patience takes consistency, DeSteno says, so aim to jot down the things you’re grateful for a few times a week.
One of my favorite quotes about describing what it means to be “rich” comes from the episode of the So Money podcast with bestselling author Seth Godin. “If you have the resources, the freedom of choice, the ability to not only spend money but also spend time and create things that touch other people, you are rich,” he said.
For me, Roth’s experience, DeSteno’s work, and Godin’s words serve as an important reminder to be more mindful and grateful for what I have. Here are a few ways to show gratitude to yourself and others to help improve your financial well-being.
Godin believes that journaling your money goals along with things you’re grateful for is “probably the biggest change the average person can make in their life for the cost of a pen and paper.” Why? Why? Because, he said, learning how to articulate financial or other goals will help you undo stories you’ve long accepted. For example, you may discover that you have reached an impossible goal, such as buying a nice new car, which may make you feel bad about having to take out a loan you can’t afford. Journaling makes you more conscious of what you want and helps you design goals that are truly attainable and make you happy.
Appreciate resources and access
We can quickly identify the big things we’re grateful for, like our job, our home, and the food on the table. It’s also important to appreciate the small, sometimes overlooked benefits in your life that can improve your financial well-being. This could be speaking a second language or having an empty bedroom in your home. These assets are valuable and can help you or someone else improve their lives. Even admitting that you have a flexible schedule can enable you to help a parent who needs afternoon childcare. Being aware of these beings can inspire us to become more.with our network and neighbors who may one day return the favor.
Celebrate your achievements
I hear this often from people who work hard to eliminate debt. To increase their chances of crossing the finish line, they show gratitude for how far they’ve come. They’ll celebrate a win by offering themselves – or someone else – a small treat, like paying off one of their cards or negotiating with a creditor to cut interest rates. They can open a bottle of wine, donate to a charity, or enjoy a movie with a friend. By valuing your small achievements along a great journey, you become aware of your will, stay motivated, and more likely to stay on course. Even if you don’t feel like you’ve made any big money, looking back to evaluate the progress you’ve made can help you put some things into perspective.
Mute the media that makes you feel bad
In a world where we always see how others live or present themselves on social media, practicing gratitude can be difficult. Watching others showcase their “impeccable” homes, bodies, cars, and kids on Instagram and TikTok can be dangerous if we start comparing our own value to what they’re selling. If social media accounts or reality TV shows make you feel FOMO or question your financial decisions, or even spend too much to “catch up” with the Joneses, stop being in the audience.