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Do Money Manifestations Do Anything?

Haley Paskalides  |  June 21, 2024

Amanda Montell explains why women are more prone to magical overthinking and if money manifestations are actually improving our lives.

“I manifested it.”

How many times have you come across that statement these past few years? We’re told that if we see ourselves acing a job interview we’ll get the job, and that if we use money affirmations like “I am rich” and “I am always discovering new sources of income” we can increase our wealth.  We’re even told that we can manifest our way to a completely new life using the power of positive feelings and good vibes, of course. 

At HerMoney we’re all for taking positive, concrete steps to increase your wealth (and your personal finance knowledge), but we have to wonder, when did we all become obsessed with this form of magical overthinking?

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Journalist Amanda Montell had the same question. In her new book, The Age of Magical Overthinking: Notes on Modern Irrationality, she digs into our obsession with manifestations, nostalgia, confirmation bias, and what it all has to do with our modern existence.

Montell describes magical thinking as overthinking — and underthinking — the wrong things. For example, she says, “I will notice my body responding to a curt email from a colleague as if I’m reacting to a predator in the neolithic era even though, that fight or flight is not necessarily appropriate as a reaction. And yet, so many of us often blitz past complex deliberations that deserve more care. So we’re really struggling with where to place our attention and cognitive biases have so much to do with that.”

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What exactly is cognitive bias?  The term was coined by noted psychologists and behavioral experts, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Essentially, our brains use our own set of experiences, likes, and dislikes to simplify information in a way that makes sense to us. Because it’s not based on fact but on our own individual experiences, it tends to be biased — for better or for worse.

The problem, according to Montell, is that those biases are now clashing with the information age — and the particular period of global (wars) and personal (COVID) crises we’ve been living through — to create “a new and very specific breed of delusion.”  She explains: “When we’re laid off or when there’s something like a global pandemic, we tend to make up sort of cause and effect fictions to explain what happened because that helps us feel like we can regain some agency or some control.”

She clarifies that while giving ourselves a pep talk or cultivating an optimism practice is helpful when we start to apply absolutist ideology or the language of capitalism to these ideas of manifestation, “it starts to get a little bit more pernicious.” For example, you might want to think twice before paying that Instagram guru 26 dollars a month for access to her secret ‘manifestation technique.’

Montell warns that highly educated women are especially drawn to these capitalistic self-healing rituals because we’re more likely to buy products that can foster “social connection, spiritual connection, or wellness connection.”  

So, what’s the secret to dialing back that enthusiasm — and maybe even that belief? Becoming more aware of how our cognitive biases and magical overthinking shape our views is the place to start, she says, noting that she hopes she can help people feel a little less alone in their struggle. “So many of us are wondering why it feels so hard to exist as a human in the world right now. Why, despite living in the information age, does the world only seem to be making less sense? I really hope that I inspire folks to develop more compassion toward others’ irrationalities and skepticism of their own.” 


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All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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