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Deepak Chopra's Money Mistakes and What He's Learned

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® - Jan 18, 2021 at 7:08AM

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One of the world's most well-known wellness gurus didn't always have his financial life figured out.

Dr. Deepak Chopra is known around the world for being an expert on wellness, and he says that financial wellness is an important part of overall well-being. But that doesn't mean that he's always done everything right financially.

In this Jan. 8 Fool Live video clip, Fool.com contributor Jason Hall asks Dr. Chopra to share some of his biggest money mistakes and what he's learned from them. 

Jason Hall: One of the things you mentioned there from very beginning talking about when you came to the United States essentially flat broke. You have been both fortunate and through a product of an immense amount of work and effort that you've put in, you've had tremendous financial success. But a lot of our viewers don't know a lot about your background and history. I think it would be really interesting if you could share, and there's things you shared in the books you've written, but if you could share with our audience maybe one or two things that happened financially early in your time in the US that elucidate how mistakes happen and maybe they seem like just big boneheaded things, but then you move forward and eventually they become irrelevant.

Deepak Chopra: Yes, when I finished medical school, there was no way to get out of India easily. You had to pass exams, you had to go to Sri Lanka to get an exam done. Foreign exchange regulations didn't allow you to leave India with more than $8. I had an uncle in England who lent me $100, so now I had 108. I thought in India [laughs] that's a very auspicious number. A hundred and eight is almost the holy number. A hundred and eight mantras on the bead and all that, 108, everything is 108. So I thought I should do something auspicious. I went to the Moulin Rouge in Paris and spent it all in one night, [laughs] champagne and all of that. When I arrived in the United States, I had no money. I landed in JFK. Those days we didn't have cellphones or anything, I made a collect call to the hospital, which no longer exists. It was a run down, what do you call it? Community hospital in Plainville, New Jersey, with a lot of violence and very rundown place, run by the mob. I didn't know that before I arrived there, I said, "I don't have any money, can you pick me up?" I call the hospital, they were so desperate they sent me a helicopter. [laughs] So my first experience of the United States is lifting off a helicopter, JFK. I thought this must be Disney (DIS -4.00%) World or if it isn't Disney World, [laughs] I guess Disney World is even better. Fifteen minutes later, I was in this little place called Plainville, New Jersey. Went to the emergency room, got totally involved there, after 24 hours, totally exhausted. Went to Main Street, stood outside the television store, because I'd never seen television in my life. When I came to this country, there was no TV in India. This was a color TV, and I was fascinated and the salesperson came out, he said, "You like that?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Why didn't you buy it?" I said, "I have no money." He said, "What do you do?" I said, "I'm training to be a doctor." He said, "At the hospital?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Oh, come on in doc, all you have to do is sign this yellow piece of paper, and you can have the TV set." I walked out with the TV set, not realizing there were 10 TV sets in my dorm. [laughs] I'd signed off months salary [laughs] over this TV set. But it didn't bother me. Next day I worked again 24 hours in the emergency room. Then I went to an automobile place. It was a Volkswagen dealership. I asked of the manager, I said, "Do you have that yellow piece of paper that I can sign because I'm a doctor and I want to drive that car over there?" I drove out, and $50 down-payment, I drove in a Volkswagen Beetle out of the agency. I thought this is heaven, you don't have to spend any money. You can spend any amount of money even though you haven't earned it. Then I got into this rat race of stress, which is basically the cause of illness in our society. Ninety-five percent of illness is directly or indirectly related to stress. Money is a huge stress in people's lives other than health of course, and personal relationships. But they're all entangled. You need money to have a comfortable life. You need a comfortable life to have healthy relationships. It's all entangled with the rest of your life.

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