Expert Interview with Kathleen Hall on Mindful Money Management

Think back on your day - how often did you utter the phrase (out loud or in your head) "I need more sleep"? Or "I have so much to do and not enough time." Or "I need a vacation."

"We are exhausted," says Mindful Living Network founder and CEO Kathleen Hall. "Harvard has stated that stress is the epidemic of the 21st century."

Most people today are overbooked, overworked and overwhelmed by the hectic pace of their lives and the high levels of stress has lead to unhappiness, depression and stress-related ailments like insomnia.

Kathleen says she found the solution to her own hamster-wheel way of life through mindful living, which studies have shown creates mental and physical health, greater productivity, calmness and happiness.

And there's no better area of your life to start applying mindful living tactics than to your family's finances - often one of the greatest culprits of stress and feelings of helplessness.

For Kathleen, being mindful while managing her money can be as simple as planning weekly meetings with your partner to discuss the budget, making the most of sales or even just walking into her bank and going to a teller to make a withdrawal rather than using an ATM.

"This intimate experience makes me respect the bank and my money, and it is a wonderful, meaningful relationship with my money and the institution," she says.

Here, she offers more insight on Mindful Living - especially as it applies to your wallet. Read on:

What is the Mindful Living Network?

The Mindful Living Network is to provide a sustainable commUNITY of people sharing information on Mindful Living. Our goal is to provide rich original content through multiple platforms, mindful columnists and a mindful community, online and locally.

What is mindful living, and why are you passionate about it?

Mindful living is the awareness that every thought, word and action affects you, the environment and society. Previously, our challenges were local. Now, they are both local and global. When we change ourselves, we change the world. Awareness, compassion, kindness and reverent respect for all living things are all core tenants of mindful living.

I am passionate about mindful living because it has transformed my own life and the lives of countless others, both personally and also in my and their businesses. Living mindfully has created happiness, peace, love and mental and physical health to a level I never dreamed possible.

I used to work with a Wall Street firm and actually had an office on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center. I managed money, and after I left my financial firm, I created my own VC firm and bought and sold businesses for years. I was obsessed with the trappings of wealth and status. The harder I worked, the more miserable I became and the more problems I had in my marriage and in my family.

One day I met a person who taught mindfulness meditation and I took a beginner class. My life was changed forever. I left the financial world and practiced mindfulness, which led to me going back to school for two post graduate degrees. I knew how crippling and damaging stress was in my life, so I created the Stress Institute to teach others how to alleviate stress in their lives and to become more resilient to stress. I subsequently wrote books, did tons of media and became an international stress expert.

How has mindful living affected how you personally view your personal finances? How have you changed your spending, saving, etc., as a result of this philosophy?

I have many times felt that the grim economy, the banks and the stock market were mostly responsible for my financial status. With interest rates so low and the instability of the market, at times I asked myself why save and be overwhelmed with the loss of control when there is a miniscule return. I felt myself and our culture were victims and had no control of our financial fate.

Money creates freedom and autonomy. Being constantly financially strapped is living in a state of bondage, oppression and unhappiness.

I realized mindful living meant developing the awareness and truly waking up to every aspect of my life. That especially meant entering the challenging world of "mindful money." Practicing mindful living has helped me realize even more that money deserves respect and has energy and inherent power. When I managed my money mindfully, I felt more confident, powerful, peaceful and experienced more control over my life. My life was less stressed. My husband and I become closer because we were united on the same financial team, and as we discussed our finances instead of arguing, we gave each other insight and supported each other.

I began to mindfully manage my finances and clearly became aware of my financial status any time I decided to look at it. I even downloaded the app last year but have never had "the time" to enter all of my complex finances. My husband and I had our bookkeeper gather all of our joint financial information as we filed our 2013 tax return. I told my husband it was a great time to load our current financial information to Then you contacted me about this interview. A true affirmation and "sign" that it is high time we got even more mindful.

What do you think are the most common mistakes people make when it comes to money?

I believe that people get overwhelmed and feel powerless and ignorant about money in general.

Also, money is one of the greatest trigger points for anger, fighting and the ending of a marriage. Talking about money with many couples is like hearing a ticking bomb in a box; both of you hear it but are terrified to open it because of the shock or destruction in it. So couples avoid the finance conversation or it becomes volatile.

People have a tormented view of money. I believe lots of times the phrases seeded in people's minds are things like "Money is the root of all evil" and "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God." Many of us grow up with a negative fear or concept of money.

Most of us dream of being like a Warren Buffett, George Soros or a lottery winner, but we really never consider it a possibility. Only "special" or "brilliant and educated" people can have lots of money. They believe they will always live hand to mouth.

Common mistakes surrounding money are: avoidance of talking about money in your family; childhood fears of lack of money; living such a fast-paced chaotic life, which costs more money, and in our frantic pace there never seems enough time to manage our money. People feel money is an ancillary component of life and not a core element that creates security, power, peace and freedom.

Today's economic climate hasn't been the best for helping us avoid stress. What's your advice on weathering the financial ups and downs without going crazy?

Ground yourself in the concept of mindful money. You become aware of your financial status and your feelings of lack of control and face them straight on.

1. Your money beliefs. Begin with developing respect for money and by believing that your money creates choices, power, freedom and happiness in your life.

2. Be optimistic about your outcomes. You can do it. Don't be stressed and pessimistic. Begin with baby steps. Have someone who can encourage you such as a spouse, family member, friend or financial counselor. Feel in control; this is an adventure and is like going to school learning about finance, which will completely effect your life and the livew of those you love.

3. Find a financial counselor. They will set everything up so you can see it clearly. They will help you create a plan. They will educate you. They will be your cheerleader. You are accountable to more than your spouse or partner; you are responsible to an outside person that you can't manipulate, control or not be accountable to. If you cannot afford a financial counselor, many financial institutions, schools, houses of worship and community centers provide financial education these days. You can also take courses online.

4. Regular finance meetings. Make an appointment each week on your calendar to talk about finances and do your financial work. This is best done with your partner or spouse.

5. Financial worry. Flooding can be a big issue in finances. Don't think about your finances all the time. It will rob you of the joy and love in your life. Choose a time and an amount of time you will think or worry about your finances, and that is it! You must be disciplined about not obsessively worrying about your finances. You will become a bore, sour, and no fun to be around.

6. Stress-management practices. Finances can be extremely stressful. Take a course or learn stress reduction practices. Take a course in mindfulness at some institution, from a professional or online. Financial stress can cause mental and physical illness. Research shows this, and you do not want to be ill and incur more financial hardship because of medical expenses.

7. Family. Have your entire family take courses or learn about finance. You don't want your children to be ignorant, fearful or have negative feelings about money. Your children will be happier, more successful and be in control when they learn about money.

8. Honesty. Be honest with your entire family about your financial situation. Keep everyone on team finance. Too many parents keep their finances from their children and then they do not understand why their parents are acting so withdrawn, nervous, angry or depressed. Have family weekly meetings to talk about everything in your family, but make sure family finances are one of them. Your children need to know that proms, cars, insurance and school cost money. Many kids are old enough to get a part-time job to contribute to the family. Baked goods, doing lawn care, babysitting or elder sitting, washing cars and tutoring are some jobs young people can do.

9. Spiritual practice. It is healthy and gives you strength, resilience and rootedness if you have some faith in something that will sustain you through the ups and downs of your financial health. You will always have hope and confidence to carry on.

Part of your focus is on building community. How important is charity to the Mindful Living Network, and why do you think it's important for people to build giving to others into their financial plans?

We have a condition called "helper's high." Helper's high is when we care for others we actually produce healing, calming hormones that also make us happy.

Participating and giving to a community creates caring relationships with people you never would have known. This also expands your knowledge and experience. You create mental and physical health when you work with others in the giving of your time and/or money.

I believe that every person on the planet should build giving to others into their financial plans. We have always set a goal to give a certain percentage of our income to charitable groups.

Your regular commitment to some charity should be first in your financial planning because it sets a priority in your life of service, community and love. Even when you have only $5 a month to give to the Salvation Army, at the beginning of each month you proudly give your commitment to yourself and others to make the world a better place.

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