Waiting for the Second Marshmallow!

Children and delayed gratification

Children and delayed gratification

How delayed gratification can help your little ones succeed in life

I’m a mom of two young boys. Joshua is six and loves playing by the rules. He does not handle change very well. His shoelaces always have to be tied evenly (and I mean to the inch!) and he does fairly well with delaying gratification and with being patient. Daniel, age 4, is our “creative” type. I’m sure many of you moms are already smiling inside. Rules are always meant to be broken, change is where he thrives, his imagination is always at work, and patience is his Achilles’ heel.

So, when it came time for my husband and me to start training our boys in sound “financial doctrine,” I started doing some research on how to handle such different personalities while helping instill in them solid financial wisdom.

While doing my research I stumbled upon on a test performed in the 1960s by Stanford University. It was a very simple test and consisted of one marshmallow and one four-year-old, placed together in a quiet room.

The test administrator would hand one fluffy marshmallow to the child saying: “Susie (or Johnny), you can eat this marshmallow now, or you can wait till I come back, and if you still have not eaten your marshmallow, I’ll give you another one.” Easy!  Eat one NOW or wait and get two LATER! Parents of each of the 600 plus children who were tested watched in anticipation, wondering what choice their darling would make.

As you would imagine, most children devoured their marshmallows almost immediately (within 30 seconds – 3 minutes). Only 30% of those tested had enough will power to wait.

What I found most fascinating about the Stanford University test is not that most of the four-year-olds ate their marshmallows. It’s what happened to each of those two groups of children later in life.

Stanford followed each of the tested children into adulthood to see how their decision to delay gratification would impact them later in life. The results were stunning. Those who were in the 30% – able to wait – preformed much better academically. They were also able to relate better to their peers, had higher capacity to plan and think ahead, and were more effective at coping with problems.

As an adult who has been applying solid financial principles for many years, I fully understand the benefits of waiting. My husband and I are enjoying the rewards of applying “pay now, play later” advice we received from our pastor long ago. But how can I teach my little guys to follow these principles if they are not naturally “wired” that way, especially my creative one?

I finally came to a simple conclusion that actually had everything to do with my husband and me and very little with how our boys are wired.

Our children observe us constantly. They behave the way we behave and not necessarily the way we “tell” them to behave. They watch how we spend, they watch how we give and they hear our arguments over money. It’s unreasonable to expect our young ones to learn anything we ourselves are not living out through our daily choices. So, changes had to start with us first.

Here are four practical ways you can help your children mature into wise and financially responsible adults. As you’ll see, these are also things you need to practice!

·      First things first. Generosity is one of the best ways to gain a proper and balanced attitude towards money. Honoring God with first fruits, not just as a habit, but also as a way of showing gratitude, will help your children understand that all things come from God. So every time they earn an allowance teach them to set aside a portion for the Lord. Maybe there is a special project in your church they would enjoy giving to, or a family in need?

·      Let them earn it. Teaching children, even as young as four to six years old, to work for their allowance is a great way to teach them a good work ethic and to have an appreciation for the money they’ve earned. Access to “easy money” may prevent them from learning this valuable lesson. We chose to teach our boys that certain responsibilities like cleaning their room, making their beds and clearing dishes from the table after dinner are just part daily life. If they want to earn money there are specific jobs outside of the regular “life routine” they can do. Create your own “job” list, name the price for each job and let them enjoy earning the money.

·      Teach them to save. This is your opportunity to help them learn delayed gratification. Label three jars as Give, Save, Spend. Every time allowance is earned or birthday money is received, teach them to save a portion of that income. Savings can be used to purchase bigger items they really want but require a much larger sum of money. It can also be used for teaching investment principles.

·      Let them decide. This is a hard one—allowing your children to make decisions with their earned money. This is only half the battle. You must also allow them to experience the consequences of bad financial decisions. No bailouts allowed! If your child wants to spend their money on a silly toy just because they have to have something now, let them, but also teach them that the toy they really wanted can’t be bought until they save for it. This is the only way to help them understand that in life we make choices, and those choices have real consequences.

Self-control is a daily battle, but it can be won, if you are consistent. The key is to recognize early on your child’s natural tendencies. Do the “marshmallow” test with your children at home. Use the results to train up “two marshmallow” kids who in turn will become “two marshmallow” adults. Imagine how different our nation would look today if all of us lived out the principle of delayed gratification.

From “I DO” to “I DON’T” – Smart money moves for couples

You met and sparks flew. You couldn’t imagine your life without him (or her). You had so much in common. You loved the same movies, same music; you finished each other’s sentences. Before you knew it, you had your future children’s names picked out and you were planning for the BIG day. Life couldn’t get any better!

Then “money” happened.

According to a poll by USA TODAY, nearly two-thirds of married couples talk little or nothing about money before they say, “I do.” The majority decide to join their lives without talking about joining their bank accounts. While agreeing on a place to live, how many children to have, and what the children’s names will be, most have no plans on how to spend, save and give their money.

Another statistic from the USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll states that spending too much and saving too little is the most common issue that causes strife among married couples.

Since we know that family and strong marriages are the fabric of our society, what can we do to preserve them?

Here are few practical steps every couple (married or engaged) can take to protect and strengthen their relationship, while implementing sound financial habits.  Taking these few simple steps can save much heartache and bring more peace, not only to the couple but also to the entire family.

1. Straight money talk

Money has been a taboo subject among couples for way too long. It’s time to break the silence and start talking.  Set aside one night a month for your “money talk.” Do it over coffee and desert, or after your children go to bed so there are no interruptions.  Be honest with each other and listen. Use that time to discuss problem areas and possible solutions.  Don’t waste it on playing the blame game.

2. Wisdom in the multitude of counselors

Admitting financial problems is never easy. However, finding a trusted and objective source of counsel is often critical for couples who simply can’t figure it out on their own. Do you know a couple that’s making the right financial decisions? Befriend them. Ask them questions. Learn from their experience. If they can do it, so can you! If you are further along on your financial journey, look for a sound financial advisor who shares your values and will be able to guide you as you look ahead to retirement, saving for kids’ college education, investing, etc.

3. Spender or Saver – which one are you?

Learning each other’s money personalities is key to helping you succeed financially. Most likely one of you is a spender while the other one has a tendency to save. Forget the traditional roles regarding who should handle money at home. Let the one who is a saver manage your home finances. Build a budget together, agree on how much you’ll spend on each budget category, and let the saver keep you accountable for sticking to the plan! Think of creative ways to reward the spender for sticking to his or her allowance each month. It’ll keep them motivated to keep it up.

4. Make budgeting fun with technology!

Budget does not have to mean boring and complicated excel spreadsheets. Today, technology offers many great online budgeting solutions to help you and your spouse not only track every single penny but also plan on how you will spend it. Once you find a solution that fits your needs, both you and your spouse will be able to have much more fun in the process.

5. Break the yoke of debt – start saving

If you are in debt, the one sure way to break that cycle is to start saving. Too many couples use their debt as an excuse not to save.  Make a list of small, doable goals. Start with saving $1000 as an emergency fund and then keep going. Your goals should include having 3-6 months of living expenses set aside.  If you have a hard time leaving that saved money alone, talk to your bank about putting restrictions on your savings account not to allow withdrawals. According to the FPA poll, only one in five couples make investment decisions together. Work hard on breaking that trend. Plan together, set goals together and celebrate every accomplished milestone together.

Money does not have to be the cause of relational breakdowns. You may have heard this saying before: Money is a great servant but a bad master. Learning how to master your money will eliminate relational stress. It will create financial breathing room and a solid foundation for your family’s future. So take it one step at a time. Fight for your marriage by making daily smart money decisions.

By Megan Pacheco