If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do.
My intention for this book is to educate you financially, transform you personally, and harness the power of your mind to create the life of your dreams, make a difference in the world, and become the powerful woman you were born to be.
Until you’re ready to look foolish, you’ll never have the possibility of being great.
For decades, I watched myself make the same foolish financial choices, over and over. Maybe you’ve done the same, like . . .
. . . Avoiding money because it’s so confusing and scary—Why even bother?
. . . Letting someone else, who’s obviously smarter, make all the financial decisions
. . . Going on a spending spree instead of socking away savings
. . . Giving to others while depriving yourself, perhaps enabling them
If you can relate to any of these, I have two things to tell you:
When it comes to making long-term financial decisions and safeguarding our future, many women fall dangerously short. According to a recent Fidelity survey, over 80 percent of women, no matter how much they have or how smart they are, admitted they weren’t protecting themselves financially.1 For the whopping majority of us, money remains a source of stress, anxiety, and pain. If you’re among them, let me assure you . . .
The truth is, you can’t help it. Blame it on your brain. “Left to its own devices,” explains neuropsychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, “the brain can direct you to act in less than optimal or beneficial behavior.”2 This refers to your finances as well as everything else. All the promises you made to yourself to be better with money, or all your efforts to educate yourself financially, won’t change anything until you learn how to consciously create new neural pathways that produce wealth-building behaviors.
Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.
Jacob Astor, the wealthy industrialist, once said: “Wealth is largely the result of habit.” His words perfectly capture the central message of Rewire for Wealth: Change your Habits, Transform Your Finances. Sounds simple, right?
Here’s where your brain comes into play. Couched snugly in your skull, this approximately three-pound organ the size of a large grapefruit controls virtually everything you do—inhaling, exhaling, spending, saving, and so much more. Every time you think a thought or feel an emotion, your brain responds with electrical/chemical impulses, transferring the thought to the appropriate brain cells, called neurons. These cells connect to either form a new neuropathway or deepen an existing one.
The more you think a thought or feel an emotion, like “there’s never enough money,” the stronger that neuropathway grows. It’s called Hebb’s law: Neurons that fire together, wire together. As you continue to worry about “not having enough,” that neuropathway continues to deepen into a well-traveled rut until it becomes a hardwired habit. At this point, you’ll unconsciously engage in behaviors that create “not enough,” such as spending more than you earn, earning less than your potential or forgetting to open a retirement account.
“Whenever you repeatedly do something pleasurable or avoid some kind of overtly painful sensation,” says Dr. Schwartz in his book You Are Not Your Brain, “your brain ‘learns’ that these actions are a priority and generates thoughts, impulses, urges, and desires to make sure you keep doing them again and again. It does not care that the action ultimately is bad for you.”
If you want to know how your brain is wired, look at your life. But changing unwanted behaviors is far more arduous and complex than simply promising yourself, Today I’m going to stop worrying about money, and then consistently following through. Your brain, which is basically lazy and loathes change, will always take the path of least resistance. Every time you try to oppose an ingrained, automatic response, your brain cries out, Stop! Don’t do it. Danger! Danger! And, despite your best efforts, you’ll be sucked back into the hardwired pathway faster than a speck of dust in front of a giant Hoover.
But I have good news. There’s another way, a far better way, not only to resist these deeply rooted habits, but to start forming new ones. This other way, however, requires that you intentionally and repeatedly defy dominant neural circuits. Think about it like this. In any situation, you have a choice in how you respond. Either . . .
• Repeat old, habitual behaviors with the same frustrating results
• Rewire to build healthier habits with far better outcomes
Rewire for Wealth presents a radically different and proven three-step formula, known as The Rewire Response, for countering the intense undertow of entrenched neuropathways while constructing and strengthening new ones, until wealth building and well-being becomes your new norm.
In a society that measures power in dollars, if we want to help women rise, we need to help women generate wealth.
For some of you, the mere mention of the “W” word may cause you to bristle like an irritated cat. Perhaps you’re struggling with what the New York Times called the “moral stigma of wealth,” thinking to yourself: “How can I be rich when so many are poor?” For some, amassing riches feels wrong, bad, sacrilegious, or just plain selfish. But consider the words attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “If you want to help a poor person, do not be one.”
Rewire for Wealth is about far more than money. It’s about the powerful woman you must become in order to create, grow, and sustain wealth. I assure you, it’s the process, not the money, that empowers.
Too many of us have been in a deep sleep regarding our true nature, how powerful we actually are, or how affluent we could be. It’s time to wake up. This crazy world needs awakened women (and enlightened men) so that we may go out and help awaken others. Rewire for Wealth is about awakening to the truth of who you are and the enormous power you have not only to create wealth but to generate change.
As the Rev. Michael Beckwith put it: “You can’t be the light of the world if you can’t pay your light bill.” My goal in writing this book is not just to help you pay your bills but to empower you to shine your light at maximum wattage without the distraction of insufficient funds or disabling thought patterns.
No more dimming yourself down to please others or refraining from rocking the boat so you don’t make waves. I want you to make waves. Big ones. I want to see a tsunami of awakened women shaking up the world, shining their light, and eradicating the darkness that’s so pervasive on this planet. I want you to have the resources to do what you’re here to do, wielding significant influence in areas you feel passionate about.
I truly believe when enough women understand how to rewire their brains, build their wealth, and claim their power, a global transformation will occur. We have the values, the vision, the sensitivity, and the resources needed to heal this planet. This I believe is our essential legacy, our inherent destiny, our utmost responsibility as women.
Besides, I believe money is our birthright as women. In fact, the English word money derives from the Roman goddess Juno Moneta. In ancient Rome, she was the guardian of finances. It was in her temple that the earliest coins were minted. And it was her temple that became the first treasury.
Beyond that, the root word for wealth, weal, means well-being. Numerous studies have proven the connection between money and well-being, linking lower incomes with an increase of chronic disease and shorter life expectancy. As I see it, attaining well-being is the ultimate purpose for creating wealth.
You must gain control over your money, or the lack of it will forever control you.
At this point you may be thinking, “But achieving wealth feels like a stretch too far from where I am now.” I completely understand why you feel this way. According to Pew Research Institute, the wealth gap—what presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called “a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality”—is the worst it’s ever been in our history.
The disparity between the “haves” and “have-nots” has become a deeply divisive global issue. People are angry, frustrated, discouraged, and feeling oppressed by forces beyond their control, and especially vulnerable to hard times and unexpected emergencies. As I write, we are in the midst of an especially difficult and unexpected global pandemic caused by the coronavirus. Fear and uncertainty are playing havoc on the economy. Millions of people are out of work, who knows for how long. Practically everyone is feeling the pinch, though it seems the have-nots are hardest hit.
And women’s finances are bound to take an especially brutal beating because the wealth gap is far worse for them. According to a 2018 JPMorgan Chase study, women own only 32 cents for every dollar owned by their male counterparts, regardless of earnings.3 And as a 2017 Merrill Lynch/Bank of America study revealed, that can mean women will retire with $1,055,000 less than their male counterparts. The numbers are significantly lower for African Americans, Latinos, and millennials.4
Nobody knows exactly why the wealth gap is so widespread, though there’s been all sorts of speculation: the economy, foreign competition, layoffs, social programs being slashed, and for women, the whopping wage gap.
Certainly, these are contributing factors. But what I find disheartening is that everyone is blaming something “out there.” Solving these external problems will unlikely eliminate or significantly narrow the gaping discrepancy, particularly for you personally. Take the Great Recession of 2008 as an example. Everyone, the prosperous and impoverished alike, lost money. But as the economy slowly recovered, something curious occurred. The poor were getting poorer while the rich kept getting richer . . . regardless of what was going on in the world. Will that happen again as we recover from this 2020 recession? Who knows.
But historically, after every downturn, there are the enduring affluent, those who consistently increase their fortunes over long periods of time. The question is: What makes them different? This is an important question. I believe if we keep blaming outside factors for our personal difficulties, we’ll remain hapless victims. I’m inclined to believe what Thomas Stanley wrote in his bestselling book The Millionaire Next Door: “Before you can become a millionaire, you must learn to think like one.”5
Besides, closing the wage gap for women will never solve the gender wealth gap. Just because someone makes a lot of money doesn’t mean they’ll keep it. I know this from experience. And I’ll tell you why: wealth doesn’t come from what you earn (or marry or inherit). Wealth comes from what you do with what you have. The real measure of wealth isn’t what comes to you. It’s what stays with you. In other words, your net worth—the sum total of what you own minus the sum total of what you owe.
Wealthy people invest first and spend what’s left, and broke people spend first and invest what’s left.
Here’s what I want you to understand. You don’t need a huge salary or a stingy lifestyle to accumulate a sizable net worth. Given time to compound—when interest is paid on the accrued interest as well as the principal—small amounts consistently saved and wisely invested can reap enormous rewards.
I remember reading about a librarian who made $8,500 a year and left a $2.2 million estate. And another article about a 94-year-old bookkeeper who earned even less and was worth over $8 million at her death. According to the articles, both these women derived their wealth from carefully investing their earnings.
Putting money in assets (like stocks, bonds, and real estate) that grow faster than inflation is what creates wealth, but, of course, those assets also pose risks.
Unfortunately, too many women lack the confidence to invest. A 2015 Fidelity Money FIT Women survey shows that most women (71 percent) keep all their money in cash, which seems safe, but over time, our purchasing power will shrink like a wool sweater in a hot dryer.6 After all, avoiding risk, which is precisely how our ancestors survived perilous conditions, gives us the illusion that we’re safe from steep losses. The operative word here is illusion.
The fact is, the biggest financial risk you and I take, as women, is not that the market will go down, because it will. Guaranteed. And it will also go up. Also guaranteed. That’s what markets do. They go up-down-up-down. But given time, the trajectory is always up. Your biggest risk, without question, is that you could outlive your money, regardless of how much you earn, inherit, or marry.
Case in point: I once interviewed a high-level executive in her fifties whose salary was close to $700,000 a year.
“I feel one step away from a refrigerator carton on the street,” she told me.
“How is that possible?” I gasped.
“My biggest investment were shoes at Neiman Marcus,” she responded with a heavy sigh.
Sadly, she is not the exception. In fact, there is little correlation between a sizable income and a substantial net worth.
Here’s what’s baffling. The Fidelity survey revealed that only 28 percent of women felt knowledgeable about investing—even though a whopping 90 percent of those same women truly wanted to learn. I find this quite curious considering the plethora of financial books and other edifying resources, like magazines, seminars, websites, and podcasts, that are readily available. The problem, as I see it, is rooted in traditional financial education.
The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.
For many women, investing is about far more than learning the mechanics of money or putting together a diversified portfolio. It’s about who we have to become, and the amount of rewiring required to overcome a lifetime of personal and cultural conditioning to finally take the financial reins.
This can be a very emotional experience. But in an industry dominated by men, most financial educators take a strictly intellectual approach, deliberately steering clear of or barely skimming the “softer side” of investing or what’s been derisively mocked as “touchy-feely” finances—in other words, shunning the very components that speak to, inspire, and motivate women. Beyond that, the emerging field of neurofinance (which combines traditional finance with neuroscience) has proven that most investors, regardless of gender, tend to act on emotions, not rational thinking, when making financial decisions.
Yet, pick up any money book. Chances are it focuses exclusively on filling our heads with facts rather than fostering our courage to change or bolstering our confidence to act. When’s the last time you read a financial article about overcoming internal resistance from neuropathways programmed with false or limiting beliefs?
The real fundamental changes in our society have come about, not from dictates of government and results of battles, but through vast numbers of people changing their minds.
I once read a quote—“We’re drowning in information, but starving for wisdom”—that, to me, correctly describes the problem with conventional financial education today.
In Rewire for Wealth I want to share with you the hard-won wisdom I’ve gained professionally as an author, financial therapist, and wealth coach, from the extensive research I’ve conducted regarding women and money, and personally, from the 30-plus years I’ve been actively investing. Despite living through at least nine crashes, not just corrections (when the market falls 10 percent) but full-on crashes (when the market plunges 20 percent or more), I’m proud to say, I’ve done quite well.
My success has far less to do with the knowledge I’ve accumulated and everything to do with how I’ve transformed my thinking. Having grown up in wealth, I’m convinced the “enduring affluent” think differently. And as a result, they make different choices. As I now understand, our choices are determined by our brain’s wiring. So, if you want to start making different choices, you must begin by rewiring your brain. Given the state of current events, knowing how to rewire has never been more relevant.
Here’s where it gets exciting. Rewiring need not take a long time. As Norman Doidge, an early pioneer in neuroscience research, declared in his book The Brain That Changes Itself, “Massive plastic reorganization can occur at unexpected speed.”7
Psychotherapist Richard O’Connor agrees. “The brain begins to change almost immediately with practice,” he writes in his book Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior.8
In fact, explains Dr. Andrew Newberg, author of How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist, “Neuronal changes can take place in literally a matter of hours.”9
The speed of your success, however, rests entirely on your level of motivation to change and your commitment to follow the specific practices that will effectively and efficiently challenge your cognitive networks. Initially, it takes tremendous effort to repeatedly focus on a thought that may contradict an old belief firmly wired into your neurocircuitry. Your brain will tenaciously defend your entrenched beliefs, blinded to anything that opposes them.
Unless you keep fortifying the new pathways over a period of time, warns Dr. Joe Dispenza in You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, “you’ll lose those connections in three weeks.”10 I don’t want that to happen to you.
This book is divided into three parts. In the first, “Awakening,” you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the four components that make up Rewire for Wealth:
1. Neuroscience—the study of the brain
2. Psychology—the study of the mind
3. Spirituality—mind training as taught in A Course in Miracles
4. Personal finance—the fundamentals of wealth building
In the second section, “Rewiring,” you’ll learn a simple three-step formula for consciously reprogramming your brain. The three steps, which I call The Rewire Response, are:
1. Recognize—start by observing your thoughts
2. Reframe—find a new way to perceive the situation
3. Respond differently—consciously, not habitually, react in ways that don’t feel comfortable
By repeatedly practicing these three steps, the old brain circuits will become weaker as new ones grow stronger. But in the beginning, old pathways can (and will) easily be reactivated.
In the final section, Hardwiring, you’ll acquire three Power Tools to strengthen and secure the initially fragile new responses. The Power Tools are:
1. Resistance work—how to take the path of most resistance
2. Reparenting—how to heal your inner child who’s likely running the show
3. Repetition—how to keep repeating the new behaviors until a habit is formed
Throughout this book, I’ll be planting the seeds for the rewiring process. Take what feels right. Leave what doesn’t. I urge you to take notes. Write down anything that seems important, either on a sheet of paper or in the margins of this book. Writing accelerates the installation of new neuropathways. But above all, be willing to accept that much of what the world has taught you about who you are and what you’re capable of accomplishing could be wrong, or at the very least, woefully inadequate.