In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, Marc Bautis invites Ellen Rogin to share her knowledge and experience on the power of picturing your prosperity. She discusses the steps to take in order to turn a vision into reality and the benefits of visualization and meditation. Ellen also shares stories and examples with Marc of people who have utilized visual representation to create financial goals.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Everyone has a unique vision and why putting a prosperity picture together can help you focus on what’s important to you.
- How to take your vision, put it into action and execute on it.
- How Marc Bautis went from being a skeptic of visualization, to understanding how powerful it can be.
- The benefits of meditation and how it can help you make better financial decisions and ensure that your priorities align with your values.
- And more!
Tune in now to discover how tapping into your creative mind can help you build towards a secure financial future!
On today’s show, I brought on a special guest, Ellen Rogin. Ellen has more than 25 years experience in my world as a financial advisor, and now focuses her work on consulting and speaking internationally on generosity, success strategies and creating prosperity on purpose. She’s a sought after media resource and the author of the best-selling book, Picture Your Prosperity.
I recently took a workshop she hosted which I got a lot out of and I’m looking into talking to her about that. So Ellen, welcome to the show.
What Does Prosperity Mean to You?
I know you start off your workshop and book by asking that question, what does prosperity mean to you? What are some of the responses that you’ve gotten from people? Because I’m sure it’s different for everyone.
It is. And that’s why I love that question so much. Sometimes people go right into, “Oh, it’s money, it’s wealth.” I often hear security. Sometimes people say it’s love or it’s flexibility. It really is all over the map. And what is so great about that word is, it helps people start to envision what they really want for themselves and to realize that money isn’t the only scorecard.
And it’s easy, especially as a financial advisor, when people are talking to you, they’re thinking about their money. But when we can have a conversation that really expands it beyond that, I think it gets people excited or thinking about things in a way they might not have otherwise thought about.
For me, that really hits home as an advisor. When I started, I used to think it was all about the numbers — collecting data and spitting out a 50 page report. One thing that made me realize that it’s more than that was something called the advice value stack, which I think was put out or made popular by Fidelity.
It’s based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where managing the money is at the bottom of that pyramid. That’s really the table stakes. Everyone needs to manage their money, pay their taxes and make sure they have enough insurance. At the next level are your goals. You may want to retire at a certain age, put your kids through school or buy a vacation home.
At the next level up we start talking about things that are important to you. It may be having organization and structure around your finances so that you can achieve peace of mind. And then at the top, which is the pinnacle, there is achieving your life’s purpose. This may be something like leaving a legacy — and it really answers the question of “What is this money for?” Which, I think, really hits home with determining your message.
Often, people don’t step back enough to say, “What is this for? Why is so important to me to have this?”
Some of that comes from outside forces. While I have nothing against purchasing lovely things, sometimes materialism takes away from people’s true meaning and values.
I know that financial advising is about the numbers, and that’s where I started. But in your evolution of becoming an experienced advisor and working with your clients, you see the real value you add. Yes, of course, you have to manage money well and advise people on data — but it’s also about creating the bigger picture where they can feel good about what they’re doing with their money.
I frequently use the Scrooge McDuck analogy with people when I meet with them. I say, “We can count your net worth as it grows, but what is the money really for? What makes you happy? What are you trying to do?” And I think as you mentioned in the book, a lot of people don’t know.
It’s hard to fire that question off to someone and expect them to rattle off, I want to do this, this, this and this. Maybe you can explain a little bit about how visualization can help someone paint that picture of what they want their life to look like.
How to Build Your Prosperity Picture
What we talk about is creating a prosperity picture, which is a visual representation of your financial plan. Some of you may be familiar with a vision board, which is a board or a poster that you put images of goals that you have. And this is — in some ways — similar to that, but it gives it more structure.
In the book Picture Your Prosperity: Smart Money Moves to Turn Your Vision into Reality, we have 32 images to start with when we do our workshops. You can also use any images from your phone, or any pictures that you find online. The idea is that you pick images that represent things that are important to you, even if you don’t know why.
If you imagine four quadrants, the top half of the board is for images that represent goals that require some kind of financial resources. On the left side, you want to have things that you want to happen sooner, maybe five years or less. On the right side, are things that would happen later.
As an example one of the images we have is an airplane. For a long time, I had the airplane in the upper right-hand quadrant. It requires money and I saw it happening down the road. I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to take a year off and just travel the world?‘ Because I love to travel.
What happened was, over time, I realized that maybe I could do that now that our kids are on their own. And maybe it would cost even less money because what if… Someone hired me in all these different cities to speak and it paid for the truck? So that image and my board moved.
There’s another image of someone running — which might not require money. Maybe that represents physical fitness to you, and it’s something you want to achieve now. If so, you’d place it in the lower right-hand quadrant. The beauty of this is we found that it helps people think about goals they might not have otherwise.
As a Certified Financial Planner we were taught that you have to help people plan for retirement and manage their investments. Maybe they have kids they want to send to college. And it’s almost as if we had these goals that were supposed to be people’s goals; like, when do you want to retire? We assume we know what they are and that might not be for everyone. Maybe they hadn’t actually even thought about it.
I want to just share a story. My co-author, Lisa Kueng, had created a prosperity picture with her husband, and one of the pictures he picked was of gourmet food. She asked him, “what does this represent?” To which he said, “Oh, that’s when we have friends over at our place in L.A. for an amazing dinner.” She looked down and said, “We live in Chicago. We don’t have a place in L.A.” He’s replied with, “Oh, I didn’t even realize that I would love to spend time in L.A. It’s so cool there.”
So that’s what they ended up doing: They sold their house in Chicago and downsized to a smaller place. Lisa travels a lot for business, so they were able to rent an Airbnb in LA for months at a time.
It’s amazing the power that your mind has. For me, it’s always been about data, as my degrees is in math and I’ve always been a numbers person. Visualization, like creating a picture map, never really resonated with me. I always thought, “How is that going to help me get there?” But I think I was exposed to it in a couple of different places.
First was through college athletics. There was a legendary wrestling coach from Iowa named Dan Gable. He was big on visualization and once said, “While you’re training, picture your opponent training too,” as a kind of visualization to motivate you to train harder. He followed it up with, “Even better, picture your opponent, just sitting on the couch, doing nothing.” You’re training hard and your opponent is doing nothing. That was the first time that I thought ‘Hm, maybe there is a benefit to visualization.’
The second time was when we created a prosperity map during your workshop. I put pictures on it that represented my goals, both professionally and personally. Two out of the six that I had on there were as short term goals, and they have happened. I’m now believing there is a pattern and that this does work. When I read your book, you actually talk about the science behind it.
There’s interesting research from a book called Your Brain and Business by Dr. Srini Pillay. He talks about when you imagine something in your mind, like imagine lifting your arm, you actually stimulate the same part of your brain as when you’re lifting your arm. I think it’s well-established for physical goals like athletics.
Visualization is a really powerful tool. I want to talk about how it can work in business and why it works. I think for some of the listeners it may be helpful about how I started in visualization, especially if you have kids. I was always in the highest math classes in middle school and high school, but always struggled. It’s like I got the information, but I was never really good when it came to the test.
It was frustrating because I thought I hated math. And in senior year, my parents got me a tutor. I was really lucky. He said to me, “Ellen, you understand this, that’s not the issue, it’s you haven’t had to take a test. Here’s what I want you to do; the night before your exam, I want you to imagine going in, sitting down with your pencil, answering very calmly every answer. And feeling really good about it, turning your exam into your teacher and then getting your test back with a big red A on it.”
The interesting thing is that I aced every math test after that. I got into college and graduated near the top of my class.
And so that tool really showed me it’s not just for athletics and can work in business too. I use it all the time. If I have a big presentation, I imagine being in front of the audience and providing great information for them. When we were in the same room, I’d imagine them at the end, giving me a standing ovation because they got so much value from it. So, this process of starting to picture what you want is really important.
It’s not just this metaphysical thing like, imagine it, and it shows up in your life. I mean, the only thing that typically happens for me is maybe a parking space. I picture a perfect one and it’s there. But usually I have to take some action. The way it works is that you’re using a part of your brain called the reticular activating system, (the RAS). It’s about the size of your pinky at the base of your skull and it helps filter information.
This is the same part of your brain, if you’re out and someone calls your name and they’re yelling, “Hey, Marc.” You turn your head, even if they’re talking to someone else. But you’ve been taught that’s important. So what happens is, when you start to picture something in your mind and think about it often, you start to realize and hear things that are important to you. And maybe you’re also getting quiet enough that you’re thinking of someone that maybe could help you with that. And you take action and you pick up the phone.
In your client’s situation, it might think they have this idea of something that might want to get them ahead. And they’re like, “Oh, I have to call Marc and figure out how we incorporate this into our plan.” So it’s a really, really powerful tool that, especially on the financial side, often gets ignored because most people are used to “just running the numbers.”
You mentioned that there are 32 images in the book to use for this exercise, but can they make it as customizable by incorporating any image that’s important to them.
Yes, and they should. The fun thing is sometimes things show up differently than you expected or things change in your life. When we were writing our book, we had walked the editor through the process of creating a prosperity picture and she left Penguin Random House two days before our book came out. She said that going through that process made her realize she was not doing the work she most wanted to do.
That changed her life. On my board I added images of a New York Times Best Seller, with the NYT logo on the board. Part of our goal was to do really, really well and have a New York Times best-selling book. And what happened was two days before the book was launched, they actually did a review of the book in the mutual fund section in the New York Times. Up until then it wasn’t even on my realm of knowing that it could even be possible.
And so things sometimes show up differently than you expected, but hopefully in really fun ways.
You mentioned the reticular activating system, but it’s not all magic. How does someone take that vision and then translate into what needs to be done to achieve the vision.
Once you have your prosperity picture, I recommend that you put it up somewhere so that you can see it often. Mine is in my office. I have a color copy in my closet and I have it as a screensaver on my phone. Those images are always in front of me.
Executing Your Financial Vision
But for the images on top that require money, this is where you can start to do some planning. If I was really ready to plan that trip around the world, I would say how much time until I am able to have the money? What do I need to save? This is where people work with good advisors like you. “Marc I have this goal. I want to be eventually able to live in other parts of the world. What do I need to do now to have that happen?”
After our workshop, I put this into practice with clients and saw how powerful it was.
I took out the images to see what resonated with them. I asked them to pick out the ones that they may want to accomplish in light. They were able to pick out 10 things they wanted to achieve. The conversation went from I want to retire at age 65 with “X” amount of money to envisioning a picture perfect retirement including things like
- They wanted to move close to their grandkids
- Buy an RV to take road trips across the country to visit their family
- Buying a cabin in the mountains
- Donate and actively participate in a charity
It made the financial planning process flow so much smoother by taking the visualization approach.
I don’t think most people give themselves the creative freedom to do that. When it comes to money we tend to use the analytical part of our brain rather than the creative inspired part of our brain. I think the magic happens when you put both together. Both of them together make the secret sauce to creating a financial life that you feel really good about. I love that you’re doing that with your clients. That’s fabulous.
It’s also helped the next stage of planning as well because, now that we have all these things that they’re looking to do, it helps the prioritization discussion of it. Inevitably there’s never an endless supply of money that someone has. So, now we can start taking these things that someone wants to do and put them in a priority order and start to figure out what each one will cost. What are the resources that it’s going to take to do it? You’re basically taking that visual story that someone wants to have and translating it into that plan or that roadmap that really makes them feel comfortable that they have something in place that they can target.
And to take those ones that aren’t priorities now. Maybe the yacht isn’t as big of a priority as planning for a second home at some point, but it helps to keep it out there. I remember years ago when I was seeing clients, I had a woman come in to see me who said, “Ellen, here’s my goal, I want to retire at 58.” She was 52 with not a lot of money. And I’m thinking, ok this isn’t going to happen.
She was really convicted with retiring at 58 and I didn’t want to be the “Debbie Downer.” I was like, “Okay, here’s what we can do now. I’ll hold that space that maybe it’s possible.” And not that she would have planned that this is really a financial plan, but just how when you put something out there, sometimes things happen in a way that was unexpected.
She ended up a couple of years later, inheriting a bunch of money from her mom, which was not part of our plan. And she ended up meeting this amazing guy who was a doctor and was really conservative like she was. They created this amazing life together. If she hadn’t had that goal it might not have happened. For those things that aren’t there now, it doesn’t mean you take them off your board.
The way I approach it with the people I work with is “let’s go through, just kind of brainstorm, put stuff down that you may not think it’s possible or reality.” One thing I heard is that we overestimate the amount of things we can do in the short term, but underestimate the amount that we can accomplish in the long term. So putting everything down is important. Maybe it’s not something that happens next year that they buy a yacht or that they buy this beach house.
But if it’s out there and if we know that, all right, this is what we have to do to be able to get that, it can be part of it and it can be achieved in the plan. So, I agree with you on that.
It’s this balance of the wanting to know how and not getting stuck in the how, ruining your dream, because we often don’t know how when things show up differently.
Yeah, that’s true. One of the other things I wanted to talk about was meditation. And I know you’re a big proponent of it. We did it. I think it was in every session of the workshop that we had together. And this is another thing that, in the past, was something I pushed back against. And hearing about the benefits of meditation, it’s not new. I’ve heard about it for a while. And I think I even gave a half-hearted attempt into trying it. I tried it, my mind was all over the place and immediately I just kind of discounted it and said, this doesn’t work, and kind of never did it for years after that.
And I was telling you before, one of the things that got me kind of back into it was reading the book 10% Happier. Well, it’s not like a “how-to” guide on how to meditate, but it talks about the benefits and it talks about how it helped the author, how it helped him overcome some anxiety, some stress, and just put some kind of comfort around in his life. How did you start or how did you get into meditating and being a proponent of meditation?
I started similar to what you started your story with. I had heard it was good. People told me I should do it. I was curious and just never got around it. And then someone I knew, was offering a course and I’m like, okay. And I went with my husband and my mom was alive at the time. And then, at times, I repeated it with our then ten-year-old son. And I will tell you, it was hard at first.
So, the benefit of doing some kind of course is, that when it’s hard, you’ve got a teacher there to talk to you about it. And he taught us the process of meditation and there’s so many different ones which we’ll get into in a second if you’d like. But I came back and he taught us this and he said, okay, go home and practice. And then we were coming back and everyone else in the class was like, “Oh, it was like butterflies and unicorns.” I felt so good. And I said, “Does anyone else feel like they’re going to throw up when they’re meditating? I’m nauseous.”
And I think what it was, is I had so much stress built up and it’s almost like if you do a cleanse while you’re eating or just drinking things, and all of a sudden, all the gag comes out that got stuck there. And it took me a while to get over that hump. But for me, what it does is quiet the chatter down enough that first of all, I can hear my own good intentions. I don’t get as freaked out when things happen that are out of my control. I’m able to be quiet enough to find solutions to problems that initially seem unsolvable, whatever that word is.
How Meditation Can Help Your Financial Decisions
But let’s talk about why I think meditating is an important financial strategy.
There are 600 and something, like 65% of Americans lose sleep over their money. Money can be really stressful for people. And all sorts of stuff feels out of our control. What the markets are doing, what the economy’s doing. Now, it’s weather stuff. Whatever it is, it can be stressful. And there was a book called Scarcity, where the researchers found that when people’s back was really up against the wall financially, when they were under huge financial stress, their IQ actually dropped. So you can’t make a good decision if you’re freaked out.
There’s a part of our brain called the amygdala. And if it gets… They call it hijacked. But if it gets stimulated it does a flight-fight-freeze response. And when you’re that worried about something, you can’t access that other part of your brain that helps you figure it out.
They found that through regular practice of meditation, you quiet that down. There’s a pause that can happen between like, “Oh my God, I’m freaked out.” You can pause enough to let that higher part of your brain kick in so you can make a good decision. So, I think that if people want to be really good with their money, they have to have some kind of contemplation of practice.
Now meditation could look different. It’s kind of exercise. Do you like Zumba? Or do you like kickboxing, you’re a CrossFit person? Or maybe you’re a marathon runner, it’s all good. And there are a bunch of different kinds. They found that actually different types of meditation stimulate a different part of your brain, which I found really interesting. But I have a dedicated practice. I’ve had one for more than 15 years. But it can be as simple as just taking in one thoughtful, deep breath.
So, inhale and exhale. And if you can take those pauses throughout your day to just notice your breath, and notice the inhale on the exhale, that can make a difference. If I can just mention one misconception I think people have about meditation and why maybe you felt like, “Oh, I can’t do this. It’s too hard.” I think people believe that when you’re meditating, you’re supposed to be able to be quiet, where there’s no chatter in your mind and everything is silent. That is almost impossible! If you’re a monk in a cave meditating for 20 years, then maybe you can’t get to their point.
We have 50 to 70,000 thoughts a day. And the actual work of meditation or the bicep curl where you’re making it stronger and you’re helping your concentration, is when you notice that your mind has left and you bring it back. And even if that happens hundreds of times during sitting for five minutes, like, “Okay, I’m noticing my breath, oh, I need almond milk at Trader Joe’s. Nope. I’m noticing my breath.” And that noticing that you left, that’s the part of meditation that makes our concentration stronger.
Yeah. And I think for me, when we did it as part of the workshop, the breathing aspect of it really resonated with me. And when our workshop ended, I was thinking, okay, how am I going to be able to continue this? How can I make it a habit? And because I know if I just say, all right, I’ll do it whenever I feel like it, it’ll just let it slip and it’ll eventually just go away.
So, kind of like coincidentally, I was part of a Peloton challenge in my town. And the challenge was whoever had the most minutes of Pelotoning for the month, was the winner. And there’s a big component of the Peloton classes that cover meditation. And so I said, this is great. It’ll force me to take these meditation classes because it’ll up the amount of minutes.
So every day, every night before I went to sleep, I would put on a meditation class. And like you said, there’s all different kinds that they had. The ones that focused on the deep breathing, because I think that is something that I think not just me, but a lot of us struggle with, is just shallow breathing throughout the day. And I really found that taking those deep breaths really changed kind of just my calm and my focus on things. And so far…
So I did it every day for the 30 days of the month. But like they say, it takes 22 days of doing something to build a habit. It’s built the habit of doing something that I now do every day. So it’s just another kind of tool or another skill that I’ve built into or doing as part of my daily ritual that I think, benefits me in a different way than some of the other things that I do. So it’s definitely been beneficial for me.
There’s all sorts of apps out there. I know Dan Harris who wrote 10% Happier, has a great podcast. He also has an app that helps lead you through meditation. I use an app called Insight Timer. It’s free. They have thousands of guided meditations on there. Plus just a timer, which I usually use that helps me know how long I’ve been meditating. And then it tracks your minutes. I can look back at how many hours over those years I’ve meditated, which is kind of fun.
Thank you Ellen, for being on the show. What’s the best way for someone to reach out to you? Or how can they find more information about you?