What Is Holistic Wealth and Why Does It Matter?

Holistic wealth is a concept that's beginning to gain traction in personal finance circles. Here's why it's an idea that can be critical for women's long-term happiness and overall resilience.

The global COVID-19 pandemic, which upended life around the world in 2020, causing more than 4 million deaths and triggering massive economic disruption, laid bare some truths about life that perhaps more than a few of us needed to be reminded of.

These included the reality that life is fleeting and that money isn't everything. Or more to the point, wealth accumulation is hardly what will matter most in the end. You can't take all that money—or that fancy house, or the shiny car—with you to your grave.

The pandemic also disproportionately impacted women, eliminating their jobs or causing them to leave the workforce in order to care for loved ones—all of which set women's progress back a generation, and made clear just how quickly some things can be reversed.

It is against this complex backdrop that best-selling author and Harvard University-trained policy expert Keisha Blair has been working to raise awareness about holistic wealth, a concept she says has never been more critical, particularly to a woman's survival.

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"The traditional concept of wealth solely measured by net income and material possessions needs to be revised," begins Blair.

Holistic wealth, a term Blair first coined in her 2019 book Holistic Wealth: 32 Life Lessons to Help You Find Purpose, Prosperity, and Happiness ($14.95, amazon.com) elevates and emphasizes the importance of collecting experiences (as opposed to just money), engaging in meaningful work, and having more control over your daily life. Holistic wealth also includes developing financial savvy and independence, leading a life of purpose, and establishing a spiritual practice.

When combined, these things should ideally lead to greater joy and happiness as well as a sense of wholeness and resilience in life, particularly in times of difficulty.

"Holistic wealth is one of the most important concepts of our generation, especially in light of COVID-19 and the fact that we can no longer divorce our physical, mental, and spiritual health from our wealth or finances," continues Blair, founder of the Institute on Holistic Wealth. "Cultivating holistic wealth helps us to be mentally tough and have the grit to weather the inevitable storms and setbacks that life brings."

Sounds fantastic, right?

Blair suggests that the time has come for women to become advocates of this new concept of wealth that's defined by overall well-being and a life well-lived. For those who'd like to get on board the holistic wealth train, here's how to get started.

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Create your personal mission statement

Having a personal mission statement is critical, explains Blair, particularly for those who may be at an intersection in life, trying to recover from something and start anew.

"This statement is an outline of the new mission for yourself," Blair explains. "It will help you recover, put the past behind you, and move forward."

Your mission statement encompasses both personal and professional goals, and outlines how you want to live your life as well as what you want your lifestyle to be like. Ideally, developing such a statement will help you to chart a course in life that's mission-led and mission-oriented.

When developing your statement, you'll want to use action verbs and include qualities that are aspirational, explains Blair. (Think: dependable, reliable, open minded, optimistic, courageous, passionate, innovative, and loyal.)

It's also worth noting that money does indeed factor into your mission statement. You should craft it with money goals in mind, but remember they're just a portion of your overall mission in a holistic wealth mindset.

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Take the time to understand your personal financial identity

In her book about holistic wealth, Blair explains that women often transition into adulthood not having gained a sense of their personal financial identity. Instead, she says, our money actions, beliefs, and overall identity are largely shaped and impacted by a multitude of outside influences and voices.

"We often graduate from college, and perhaps transition into a relationship with a spouse, or are influenced by family or friends, or even advertisements, regarding what we should do around money," explains Blair. "All along the way we're absorbing messages from these different sources about what we should do when it comes to money, and often we follow the crowd—so much so that we're not being authentic."

Developing holistic wealth (not to mention financial literacy) requires understanding who you are and your money identity. Blair has developed a free quiz, available on her website, designed to help you do just that—reveal your money identity. By taking the quiz you'll find out whether you fall into one of the following money identity categories: the risk taker, the minimalist, the maximalist, or the anxious spender/investor.

"We all have these scripts we grow up with, and messages we get from people that tell us who we are before we know who we are," Blair explains. "We need words to describe who we are. We need to have a sense of who we are. Having this information can be empowering in terms of making money decisions."

Ultimately, knowing your personal financial identity allows you to own what's really true and embrace and harness that truth to your advantage.

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Develop a holistic wealth bank account

The concept of establishing and living in alignment with a holistic wealth bank account is perhaps one of the most powerful and life changing ideas Blair puts forward in her book. She suggests women can be far healthier and happier if they focus on making decisions in terms of whether those decisions will lead to holistic wealth bank account additions and depletions.

"All of the decisions you make are either an addition or depletion to this metaphorical account," Blair explains. "It's basically a framework for decision making. Every day we need to think about the actions and decisions we're making in terms of whether we're adding to or depleting our holistic wealth. I think about every decision in terms of that holistic bank account. I ask myself—Is this going to make me better, healthier, or happier?"

The daily life decisions one might view through a holistic wealth lens include food choices, exercise, spending time with loved ones, spending time in nature, and even job choices.

"Ask yourself 'Are these things that will ultimately enrich me?'" says Blair. "You should also think of the actions you take day after day in terms of paying compound interest. They add up, the same way compound interest would add up."

"Spending time in nature, eating well—the benefits of these things compound over time, adding to your holistic wealth," she continues. "While eating junk food, or toxic relationships rob you and end up depleting your 'bank account.' Until you feel empty."

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The bottom line

To recap what we've covered here: Holistic wealth is about far more than money. But it doesn't exclude money entirely, either. It's an approach to living and decision-making (financial or otherwise) that's fuller, more comprehensive, more thoughtful, and, well, more holistic.

What's more, it's a concept that's never been more relevant—as waves of women walk away from the workforce in response to the challenges of COVID-19, or perhaps in response to inadequate salaries, or simply in response to the realization (after staring down a deadly global pandemic), that there are other ways to live life. And some of those ways may even make you happier and more fulfilled.

"People are willing to take salary cuts because they've started embracing holistic lifestyles that allow them to build a day-to-day existence that makes them more complete and happier, especially mothers," says Blair, who as it happens is preparing to publish a book in March designed to address this unique moment in history—Holistic Wealth: The Art of Recovery from Disruption ($15.95, Amazon.) "With our health taking center stage amid the pandemic, and loved ones taking center stage, we're realizing money isn't everything. Life is about more than money."

If only it didn't take a global pandemic to get us here. But, thankfully, Blair has given this movement a name and formalized it. Now it's time for us all to get on board.

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