Question of the Day: Can Self-Control Be Taught?

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Sep 15, 2014

Ok, this may seem a bit off-based for a personal finance blog, but so many of the issues we deal with as personal finance educators revolve around this issue of self-control.  Save more, spend less, don’t have credit card debt, keep a budget, invest for the long-term….the advice seems obvious, it’s the implementation of it that is difficult…and this is where self-control kicks in.

Several decades ago, there was a fascinating experiment done that over time has become known as the “Marshmallow Test.”  Enjoy this TED Talk which describes the test and the insights gained from the follow-up decades later. 

The psychology professor, Walter Mischel, behind the “Marshmallow Test” now has a new book “The Marshmallow Test:  Mastering Self-Control.”  His key message: “Self-control can be taught.”  Read the NYT article to hear how this can be applied to our financial lives.

Might be an interesting exercise for your students to identify areas in their financial lives where they might lack “self-control” and have them develop strategies for how they might overcome them.

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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