While I was supposed to be relaxing my mind and focusing on my breath, it occurred to me that important principles in yoga also apply to the world of investing and financial planning. The practice of yoga and the building of healthy finances both require balance through developing strength and flexibility.
o In yoga classes I have learned that extending too far is not smart – it will lead to injury. Similarly, with investing, people who extended their risk tolerances too far (holding too great of a percentage of their investments in stock market investments) are feeling pain now. As it is important to be in tune with your body during exercise, it is important to be aware of your investing comfort level. When the stock market went up every day, many investors mistakenly thought they had a greater ability to tolerate risk than was actually the case.
o People can also stretch themselves too far as it relates to their spending. Pushing the limit of spending can backfire if your income should be reduced due to a job layoff, for example. That larger mortgage you thought you could cover or that big credit card bill you were sure you could pay off is now causing your financial health to be out of balance.
o I have had yoga instructors tell the class that yoga is about our individual experience and that we should not compare ourselves to others in the class. As with yoga, avoiding comparing your financial situation to others may be prudent advice. In the late 90’s, those who compared their more conservative investment returns to their friends’ returns whose portfolios had high concentrations in technology stocks may have felt that they were missing out. Many of these people decided (at the peak of the market) to make a move to more aggressive investments based upon these comparisons.
o Balance is as important in yoga as it is in investing. In yoga, to stay in a balance position it is good to focus on a point that is not moving. To stay balanced in your financial lives, it is good to focus on your goals and what is important to you in life. Balance in your portfolio (investing in a variety of asset types) often helps to reduce the volatility in your investments.
o It is impossible to get all the mental and physical benefits yoga can provide by going to one class. By incorporating yoga into your daily or weekly routine you will see improvement and experience the benefits. Likewise, you cannot expect to have financial health and reach your goals by rarely paying attention to your financial situation. Instead, set a plan for regular savings, periodic reviews and tracking your progress.
o I enjoy going to yoga class and learning from a good teacher, and I also like to practice on my own at home. I find that a teacher can instruct me to be in a yoga position correctly and safely (so I get the maximum benefit with the least likelihood of getting hurt). I also find that being in a class pushes me further than I would otherwise do on my own, thus I improve more quickly. You may enjoy managing your personal finances on your own. Many people benefit from having a professional financial advisor assist them to make sure they are addressing all the important issues and to help guide and support them in reaching their goals.
o One of the most important things to remember in yoga is to breathe. Breathing helps to calm our minds. With calm minds we can make wise choices. When people are afraid (as many investors currently are) they tend to take quick, shallow breaths. Our brains need oxygen to make good decisions. So, remember breathe in and breathe out fully (then you can open your investment statements). Om.
(C) Ellen Rogin 2009