The Marshmallow Experiment
Stanford University once conducted a famous study known as the Marshmallow Experiments. In the experiments, each child was given the opportunity to eat 1 marshmallow, or wait 15 minutes while the researcher leaves the room, and when the researcher returns, the child gets 2 marshmallows. If the child had eaten the marshmallow while the researcher was away, he or she would not be entitled to the 2nd one. Yes, this experiment was done to conduct a behavioral study on instant gratification.
Watch the experiment here before reading on. Trust me it’s worth your time!
Screenshot from the Marshmallow Experiment at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo4WF3cSd9Q
Yes, the boy in the dalmatian suit is darn cute! LOL.
The results? 600 children were tested and only 1/3 of these kids waited for the 2nd treat and did not give in to instant gratification. These studies were published in 1972. Years went by and the researchers went back to check on the test subjects, who had by then become fully-grown adults. The studies got even more interesting. The children who had better self-control, i.e, the ones that did not give in to instant gratification, reported the following results:
– higher SAT scores
– lower levels of substance abuse
– low level of obesity
– better responses to stress
– better social skills
And generally scored better in a range of other life measures.
Marshmallows and Personal Finance
While watching the video, I can’t help but see the similarities between children and adults, marshmallows and investments, or marshmallows and personal finance in general.
How many of us cannot resist the ‘marshmallow’? We have to constantly poke it, touch it, squeeze it.
How many of us lie to ourselves? We eat the marshmallow and reason to ourselves that the second one will still arrive…somehow.
How many of us are just plain ignorant? We eat the marshmallow the moment the tester leaves.
Or how many of us try to have self-control but….in the end, snap and give in to temptations – Grab the marshmallow and lick it with outright relish!!!
You Grow Older, but not necessarily wiser
I guess other than watching the video and going, “Haha! The children so cute!”, the lesson to take home is this :
Just like the marshmallow, the same thing applies to our finances. If we bother to save and invest, we have a chance to get 2 marshmallows instead of one. If we just give in to instant gratification, splurge on buying things we don’t really need, we will feel good for that moment then complain and come up with stupid excuses on why we cannot achieve the financial freedom we want, many years later.
So before you go “YOLO! Party time!” and drop your cash on bling-bling and pop thousand-dollar champagne in clubs like some ‘playa’, perhaps its better to consider better ways to grow that cash into something more substantial through compounded returns over the years…
So next time, if you think your loved ones are overspending on expensive crap…
Take a bunch of marshmallows, and throw it in their faces.
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