Tag Archives: Stanford University

My Grad Commencement Address: About Marshmallows


If I were doing a commencement address at some graduation this month, it’d be about marshmallows.

That was a Stanford experiment in the late ’60s, that’s been proven to be incredibly accurate, and replicated right up to a few years ago. Researchers gave four to six year olds a marshmallow, pretzel, cookie, or some treat the kids really wanted. They then told the kids they could eat it whenever they wanted. But if they waited 15 minutes, they would get another one to double their treat.

It turns out that this delayed gratification was a powerful and accurate indicator of their marks, their education level, their weight, and their financial success as adults.

Maybe the marshmallow test for graduate age people is 15 days before making impulse decisions. Maybe it’s leaving the credit card at home during the week. Maybe it’s the most powerful financial tool of paying yourself first in savings before spending, or maybe it’s too late, and they’re doomed anyway.

Broke is the new rich. That was the T-shirt a 20-something guy wore at a festival. His age is certainly right in that thinking – even though it’s so wrong and so self-destructive. The millennial generation age 18 to 35 can be forgiven for wondering if they’re ever going to get any financial traction. There are over 85 million of them in North America who, on average have less than $1,000 saved.

There’s a great quote from Shaquille O’Neal: “It is not about how much money you make. The question is are you educated enough to KEEP IT?”

You may think that the average 20 something can’t get ahead. Yes you can! Get your debt under control, or have the delayed gratification to not get into debt in the first place. Start with your first paycheque, or starting this week, have two percent taken right out of your account and transferred into investments. There’s no chance you’ll miss that $60 or so. Then, every six months, up it by one percent. Again, you’ll never miss $20 or $30 until you’re saving 10 percent. Every hundred bucks saved is nearly $9,000 when you retire.

But that’s a BIG marshmallow test that only one or two people from a grad class will embrace. If you’re one of those few people, or want to be, read four short chapters in the Money Tools book and you can get really pretty quickly and easily. If not, remember me as you’ll want to email me in a decade when you’re broke and need help.

The mark you get on your lifetime financial learning isn’t an A to an F. It’s measured in your investment account balance and your debt, and you get a new mark every month for the rest of your life. It might be a mark of minus 30,000 in debt, or a mark of plus $45,000 in investments…