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Can you really think yourself rich?

Get-rich-quick schemes aren’t new, so what are we to make of a new generation of wealth spruikers?

  • Finance
  • Read Time: 6 mins

Social media is home to a huge number of self-help gurus who preach that positive thinking and confidence in oneself are the secrets to success – including getting rich.

Taking risks, and beating them, is just part of the formula to achieving one’s life goals, apparently.

In this digital age these pastors of aspiration even have a new name: “manifesters”.

In the real world, however, people who believe in manifesting financial success are more likely to make risky investments and end up bankrupt, according to a report by researchers at the University of Queensland Business School.

Dr Lucas Dixon led a project creating a “manifestation scale” to explore the psychology behind the concept of achieving success through aspirational thinking.

“The business world is filled with self-described experts, gurus, and influencers who promise success through manifestation, but many of these beliefs and practices lack solid evidence,” Dr Dixon said.

“Although manifesters felt more confident and optimistic about achieving success, we didn’t find objective proof to support the effectiveness of manifestation.”

In three studies with a total of 1,023 participants, the UQ team found one-third endorsed manifestation beliefs.

“Those who scored higher on our manifestation scale perceived themselves as more successful, had stronger aspirations for success, and believed they were more likely to achieve future success,” Dr Dixon said.

“But they were also more likely to be drawn to risky investments, have experienced bankruptcy, and dangerously believed they could achieve an unlikely level of success more quickly.”

Misplaced optimism

Associate Professor Nicole Hartley, who co-authored the report, said manifestation could leave people with unrealistic expectations that led to volatile investments, such as get-rich-quick schemes, investment in cryptocurrency, and possible bankruptcy.

“Typically, we found manifesters maintained their optimism even when their current financial situation was poor,” Dr Hartley said.

“Those with a stronger manifestation belief were also more likely to believe they could get rich quickly, and hence may not see the pitfalls of get-rich-quick schemes or the unlikelihood of financial reward from these schemes.”

Perth-based financial educator Lacey Filipich said there’s nothing wrong with being optimistic and setting goals for future prosperity, but “willing it into existence isn’t enough”.

“A lot of the [manifestation] stuff that I've seen on YouTube and TikTok is quite questionable and not always accurate, not always fair and factual,” Ms Filipich told ABC Online. “The best protection for consumers is some healthy cynicism.”

Sound financial advice when creating wealth is to write down your goals, seek professional advice, and understand the investments you are making and the associated risks.

Consumer caution

Dr Dixon said the concept of manifestation is often pushed by people or organisations who have something to sell.

He urged consumers to be cautious when it comes to anything that promises to make success easy or quick.

“It’s best to try to stick to things that are within your control, especially taking small steps towards achievable goals,” he said, adding that investors should also “plan for any potential negative eventualities”.

The UQ research is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Related reading: UQ, ABC

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