Marshmallows and the evil scientist

An amusing look into money’s number one rule, delayed gratification. Can you stop at just one?
Image: © nool - Fotolia.com

Once upon a time, in the early 70s, there was an evil scientist named Walter Mischel. (Evil might be a bit harsh, but the best stories have evil scientists.)

Wally decided to experiment on small animals with some reasoning skills, Generation X toddlers.

Individually, he locked them in a room with one marshmallow. He told them that if the marshmallow was still there when he returned, they could have two marshmallows.

They tried so hard! They would lick the marshmallow then put it down. They would touch it, then lick their fingers. They would try to fall asleep. But most ate it and missed out on the second marshmallow.

Okay, strictly speaking, it’s probably not financial advice. But it translates perfectly regarding money’s number one rule, “delayed gratification”. If you invest some of your money now, you’ll enjoy the benefits of compounding later on. Your one marshmallow will magically turn into two. Or three. Or more.

I know I don’t want to retire poor. And I want to not have to work, full-time at least, beyond about 55.

Therefore, I’ll need other sources of income. Where do they come from? Delaying the gratification of spending some money today for investments that will produce income and capital for later.

Buy a home and pay it off (short to medium term, it’s more expensive than renting, but one day it’ll be yours, whereas rent is forever). Buy quality shares and property. Pump a little extra into super.

The sacrifices don’t have to delete the fun in your life now. But the sacrifice must be there. And it must be ongoing. Starting now.

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Bruce Brammall is the author of Debt Man Walking (www.debtman.com.au) and principal adviser with Castellan Financial Consulting.