Believers Can You Manifest Financial Abundance?
When I hired a financial coach, I wasn’t expecting to fall down a rabbit hole of mantras, manifesting, and magical thinking.
The air is thick as a wallet; the trees lining the sidewalk shimmer a slick, vibrant green. Ching ching ching goes the money tree / And every time it ching money comes to me is my private summer anthem, first posted by King Soon on TikTok, now at 4 million views. I listen to it everywhere in the Brooklyn heat. I have no problem admitting I’m self-brainwashing. It’s almost a spiritual practice, rolling words around in the mind like candy in the mouth, hoping to take on their taste. May I be happy, may I be free. It all flows in so abundantly.
It’s 2022. Fresh out of a graduate degree in the arts, I’ve hired a financial coach to get my shit together. I’ve been teaching along with freelancing, and I want to get clarity on my new financial landscape; things like paying quarterly taxes, budgeting, and whether or not to form an LLC. In my twenties and early thirties, when I worked mostly for other people, I told myself I could forgive a degree of ignorance when it came to my finances—checks came regularly even if they were small. The truth was that I’d been afraid. I had little training in money, and this made me feel anxious and kind of stupid. But now, I’m ready to be empowered.
A woman I follow online, who built a business making websites, recommended the coach. When I looked her up on Instagram, she stared back confidently, arms folded over her magenta blazer. Her bio celebrated her two degrees in business and a project that got her on Keeping Up with the Kardashians . I book her intro pack: ten sessions. I find songs online to get me in the mood to face her, songs like “I Get Paid Every Day” and “Worth Ethic.” Hold four pennies together and shake while you listen , someone on Reddit instructs, linking to a playlist.
In our first Zoom session, the coach recommends redoing my website so people can purchase my classes with the hit of a button and feel like they’re shopping on Amazon. “No invoices!” she says.
On the second call, she gives my current offerings an audit. The next week, while I file LLC paperwork, she hits a button and a little digital party favor blows confetti.
“And so it is!” she says.
“I wish I’d faced my finances years ago,” I say. I admire how she started so young. My guess is she’s late Gen Z to my elder-millennial.
“Instead of saying I wish for or I want , say I am ,” she suggests. “ I am financially clear.” Shifting verbs this way, she claims, will allow me to step more into my power.
“I am financially clear,” I repeat.
Between calls, she sends voice-memo check-ins and pep talks.
“So much of this is mindset,” she says in one recording. “You are worthy!” She tells me that “abundance” is in reach if only I can “align.”
I start to wonder: Have I inadvertently hired a Law of Attraction–style manifestation coach instead of a financial one?
I start to wonder: Have I inadvertently hired a Law of Attraction–style manifestation coach instead of a financial one? I had been hoping for discussions about black-and-white business topics. I already spent a lot of time as a person thinking about the spiritual––I wanted new tools, hard facts. I’m suspicious of this offering, even as I believe in the energy of things.
The term Law of Attraction was first coined in 1877, in a book called The Secret Doctrine by Russian mystic Helena Blavatsky. This was around the time of the New Thought movement, which drew on both Eastern and Western mystic thought and was popularized by people like Blavatsky and, more famously, Ralph Waldo Emerson. The idea that one’s thoughts create reality isn’t new and is woven into religions and philosophies from Hinduism to Buddhism to mystic teachings of Christianity, like those shared by Thomas Merton. But manifesting as per the Law of Attraction suggests that if you think positively enough and put your energy in the right place, you’ll pull what you desire toward you like a magnet. Everything is energy. You just need to get yourself into alignment with what you want to attract.
Manifesting went mainstream in 2006 with Rhonda Byrne’s self-help book and subsequent documentary The Secret , which spread the word that “thoughts can become things.” But I remember seeing material on the concept even earlier. As a teen browsing a New Age bookstore in upstate New York, Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life promised that affirmations and positive thoughts could not only draw things toward you but coax other ones away: cancer, cold sores, headaches. A chart in the back outlined common ailments and the possible psychological or spiritual causes. I looked up acne: caused by repressed anger. The cure: Let it out!
Now, today’s teens trade manifesting tips on TikTok, things like the “3-6-9” method where you write your manifestation wishes three times in the morning, six times in the afternoon, and nine times in the evening to let the magic build through the day. Manifestation content on TikTok has 8.1 billion views.
Critics call manifesting a pseudoscience at best, blaming and damaging at worst. If you are attracting everything that happens to you, they argue, what about illness, disease? Does a person have the power of a god? Believing we’re responsible for everything risks placing too much weight on individual actions, ignoring the role played by social systems. For example, if a person doesn’t attract the financial abundance they want, manifesting culture might blame their technique, failing to take into account the relevant larger issues like wealth inequity or systemic racism. I once overheard a conversation about a woman who fell ill with cancer who felt shamed by her online manifestation community—it was something in her thoughts, they claimed, a certain negativity or a lesson she needed to learn. There was no airtime given to factors like genetics or environmental toxins, just a focus on her inner state, her practice. For a belief system that purports to work with the sensitivities of energy, this kind of reasoning feels especially cruel.
Believers of manifesting remind us that seeing what you want is part of the path to reaching it. How is this different, they suggest, from an athlete training for the Olympics by imagining the weight of the gold around her neck? Often, ancient sages and teachers like the Buddha are quoted to make this point: “All that we are is a result of what we have thought.”
I’m not sure where I fall on the scale of belief. I’m repulsed by the idea that a person could be single-handedly blamed for their circumstances. I’m turned off by magical thinking without the scaffolding of action. And yet that quote supposedly by the Buddha rings true to me. I do believe the seeds we plant internally grow. Once, at twenty-one, I hung a postcard of an East Village building on my bedroom wall and, six months later, moved into a very similar-looking place on a rent-stabilized lease. Years later I moved to LA in a similar fashion after making several Pinterest boards.
But the skeptic in me cringed when, at a yoga class in Hollywood, the teacher mixed the verbiage of asana with New Age jargon. In her “dharma talk,” she held up her arm to showcase a pink Ferrari tattoo and shared that she’d just “manifested” the vehicle with her focused intention. She’d devised an intricate system that included using mantras, watching YouTube videos of the car in action, and even going to a dealership to take a test drive. She hyperfocused on the make and model, what kind of leather she’d have in the interior, what her plates would say. “I had to believe it was so tangible, possible,” she said, “it was already here.” She then led us in a meditation on belief. But I was distracted, annoyed that her teaching was so materialistic.
In traditional yogic philosophy, which I’d studied as a yoga teacher, I’d been taught that the main way to feel abundant was to simply need less. In texts like the Bhagavad Gita , the focus is on taking actions for their own sake or out of devotion to the divine, not for the results they bring. Plus, her talk didn’t even address how she actually made the money.
On the next call my financial coach goes back to the issue of language.
“What do you think of when I say the word money ?” she asks
I tell her about this girl I know that was dead broke after grad school. She booked a photo shoot, redid her website, and started marketing herself as a spiritual guru for women, one who could help students reach “radical self-acceptance” and “financial abundance” through coaching and meditation. I was deep into yoga and meditation study at the time, practices that traditionally built upon lineages of style and teachers. When I asked her what her own lineage was, she said she made it up. I balked. But the other day, feeling insecure about money, I googled her.
What beliefs are holding you back? her site said, with photos of her on yachts in Morocco in the background.
“I’m worried she’s taking advantage of vulnerable women,” I say to the coach. “It’s like, I will teach you the secret to manifesting money if you give me some money! Like, we’re not blind . . . that’s how you made your money!”
“Are you worried you’re a vulnerable woman?” the coach asks. I didn’t think I was, but now I start to reconsider.
I redirect the conversation. I ask the coach about quarterly filing as a sole proprietor. She tells me she has an accountant for that. I wonder if either this coach or the girl I used to know went through any kind of accreditation process. Is this line of work regulated?
The coach tells me she’s worried I have blocks. I am getting in my own way.
Between our meetings, I remember a story. I first heard it on Oprah (who is, as we know, a manifester). Jim Carrey, before he “made it,” was working as a custodian. One night, he drove up into the Hollywood Hills and wrote himself a check for ten million dollars. In a later year, around the date he’d written on the check, he made an actual ten million dollars for Dumb and Dumber .
If you go to thesecret.tv, you can pull up a blank check. The instructions read: Place the check in a prominent position where you will see it every day! Every time you look at your check, believe and feel that you have the money now! I don’t print it out, but I do spend a long time staring at it.
I start to think it is entirely possible I am getting in my own way. As the weeks go on, I think, Well, I paid the coach anyway . And it’s true: I’m not where I want to be when it comes to financial security. Maybe I should open up to her suggestions.
So when she instructs me to hang a golden disco ball above my desk, I do it. It showers shards of refracted light and pure dance-power as I open spreadsheets. I delete the words income and expenses and relabel them with the more alluring Energy In and Energy Out .
I rename my checking account Party Zone . I make my online banking password a new mantra, something fun, like iamfullofpossibilities .
But each time I try to log in, I forget it.
I feel that I’m at once getting more clear and more confused than ever. My business and personal checking accounts are now delineated, but I’m wondering why it took so long and how my attitude might have contributed to the delay. And what’s up with my aversion and my fear? Maybe I need to look at what my coach calls my “money stories,” the set of beliefs about finances I carry from my past that affect my day-to-day.
I rename my checking account Party Zone. I make my online banking password a new mantra, something fun, like iamfullofpossibilities.
So on week six, I tell her about the time I was sitting at a sidewalk café in Larchmont, anxiously mired in debt. I looked up at the palm trees and Hollywood sign, turned to my friend, and said, “I hate money!” Then, hearing the words freshly as if they’d come from another voice, I’d sat up, shocked, and corrected myself. “I mean, I love money!”
My friend told me to stop using the word broke . It sounded too much like broken , which she promised we weren’t.
I told my friend I’d recently read the memoir of a New Age author. One day, when the author had been worried about money, she took a walk up a steep hill in Seattle. She tried the mantra Abundance, I am ready , and a fifty-dollar bill fell and hit her in the forehead! My friend laughed. We both turned our palms toward the Southern California sky.
Through a series of events that year, I tell the coach, I eventually met the New Age author whose memoir I’d read. It was like my words had brought her to me. I even house-sat for her while she was away on a cruise with her friends learning the Abraham Hicks method.
I looked out the window at night at a sparkling-diamond view of the city and for a moment thought: I manifested this! Then I realized none of it was mine.
By week seven, I’m up late reading abundance posts on Holisticism Hub and newsletters from the MoneyWitch , then night-scrolling cash memes until flashes of glittering dollar signs pulse like hallucinations.
Buy the latte!
Business plans for squiggly-brained creatives!
Charge your worth.
The messages pivot and turn; it feels like the algorithm is hunting me.
Is that what it’s like, manifesting? Chasing something down until it comes for you?
Does money believe in us?
A study conducted by Ellevest, a financial-literacy platform aimed at women, reported in 2022 that women’s financial health and literacy were at an all-time low. In an interview with NPR , CEO Sallie Krawcheck shared that “on any given day, money is women’s number one source of stress.”
Then there’s the math: White women make 82 cents to a man’s dollar, Black women 64 cents, Hispanic women 54. Native American women 51 cents. Asian women, 75. From the National Partnership for Women and Families: “Across all racial and ethnic groups, women in the United States are typically paid (on average) 77 cents for every dollar paid to men.”
I start to google the basics of business plans and investing. I curate my feed to showcase more women’s investment and financial-literacy content. I fall down internet rabbit holes on money, women, and inequality. It’s overwhelming.
Manifestation content has spiked since Covid, and this tracks with the theory that “magical thinking” increases in times of great stress. A 1994 study out of Tel Aviv University showed that “those exposed to missile attacks during the Gulf War were far more open to the fantastical.” The recent wave in manifesting coincides with the pain of a global pandemic, climate change, the fall of Roe v. Wade , and all the other contemporary things that make us feel out of control. It makes sense that people who feel (and who are) disenfranchised are looking for means of empowerment.
I think about the manifestation coaches that need to make money to survive in a capitalist culture, too, the control they seek over their finances similar to the kind they promise their customers. I read about a woman who rented a fancy Airbnb condo to shoot her web content in and made it look like her home. I wonder who owns the yachts everyone is standing in front of in their photos.
In our last session, the coach asks a series of questions to wrap up our time.
“Why did you go back to school?” she asks. It was a big financial deal. I gave up a job with a 401(k).
“To find my voice,” I say. She asks if I did. I’m quiet.
Months later, the heat is back even though it’s September. Walking down Seventh Avenue to teach a class, I get a text: Hey lady soooo good to work with you. Want to book another month?
I look up from my phone and try to catch my reflection in a shop window. It’s too bright to see. Instead, I watch a small girl run in and out of a stream of water. The hydrant is open, water scattering through the air like a million silver coins. It’s so beautiful. You might even call it abundant.
It’s true, I did learn from working with the coach, but maybe not entirely the way she intended. Like most things, manifestation was not all good, or all bad. It did make me feel more powerful to listen to those songs on repeat, to self-talk, to imagine. Still, working with these tools without acknowledging the complexities and inequities of the world seemed unkind and counterproductive, even exploitative. It was upsetting to think how easily people could be taken advantage of when they were seeking help. If 10 percent of the energy people spend manifesting went toward working for social change and simple voting, I wonder if we’d have less to manifest in the first place.
For the moment, I feel complete. I look at my phone. I thank her but end the conversation with a quick and certain no.
Around me, dusk turns stagnant puddles to gold. The day melts and spills into everything in the manifest world.