The Stanford marshmallow experiment is one of the most well-known pieces of social science research out there. It has arguably affected the way that many people live their lives, as well as providing lots of fun and interest for those with young children who are in the ‘I’ll try this at home’ camp.
So what is the marshmallow test?
A marshmallow is placed in front of a child, they are told that they can have a second one if they can go 15 minutes without eating the first one—then they are left alone with the marshmallow.
As you can imagine, many children ate the marshmallow as soon as the door closed, others fidgeted and wiggled as they tried to restrain themselves, eventually giving in. A handful of children managed to wait the whole time.
Following the experiment, the children were monitored as they grew up and it was found that those who waited for the second marshmallow performed better in exams, had a lower likelihood of obesity, lower levels of substance abuse and their parents reported that they had more impressive social skills.
In other words, it could be said that the ability to delay gratification is a trait that leads to valuable rewards in the future.
So how does this relate to financial planning?
The results from the experiment can easily be applied to the way you save and invest money. Simply put, if you save rather than spend now, you’ll gain greater rewards in the future.
How do you delay gratification?
Cutting out frivolous and impulsive purchases are a good start. Think to yourself: ‘do I really need this?’ Do you really need to buy a coffee from the coffee shop every day? Do you have to eat out three times a week? Small acts of restraint can lead to a big pay off in the future.
When it comes to building a financial plan, it’s important to identify the levels of savings required for achieving goals in the future. Are you aiming for an early retirement or a once in a lifetime holiday? Setting out these goals early and developing a plan will help you to streamline your saving strategies so that you remain on track. Just remember, one marshmallow now or many marshmallows later.
Whatever you want to purchase: a boat, a house or a car, delayed gratification is an extremely valuable skill to learn when it comes to achieving your financial milestones. The more you see your savings grow, the more motivated you will be to keep going. It’s good to see your hard work pay off and over the span of a few years, you could see dramatic increases in your wealth and financial security.
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The value of your investment (and any income from it) can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.