Debt and the Marshmallow Experiment

Prepare your kids before they get swallowed up by “the blob”.

Pop quiz: What’s the best predictor of success in life for your children?

It’s not diet, genetics, or whether you breast or formula-feed. It’s not co-sleeping, screen time, or where you send them to school.

Not even close.

The single best predictor of success in life is the ability to delay gratification, putting off some benefit today for the prospect of further benefit tomorrow.

Examples abound, none more infamous than the “Marshmallow Experiment” (Mischel, Delay of gratification in children, 1989). Preschoolers in a Stanford University lab were offered a choice between one marshmallow, or two if they can wait 15 minutes in front of the first, unattended.

Two thirds succumb, gobbling up the soft treat during what became an eternity of temptation.

Monitored for decades, those able to wait for the big payout became more successful, plus had lower obesity, addiction, and divorce rates — wow!

Try it today. Can your child pass the test?

Better to know now, so you can dump them at the fire station if they flunk, right? No, relax, their fate is not sealed yet. Self-control is a skill, like dribbling a basketball. To some it’s natural, but anyone can master it with practice.

The trouble is, it begins with the lessons they learn, watching the world with wide eyes. And culturally, we are not modeling this behavior.

Culturally, we are now drunk teenagers hooting and hollering for keg-stands on fraternity row.

Debt

The Marshmallow Experiment is about self-discipline.

It’s about savings and investment, versus consumption and debt. Two of three kids couldn’t pack away nuts for the winter, like good little squirrels.

Today, the chance that this behavior will screw up your life is MASSIVE. How many in Gen X, Y (millennials) and Z now find themselves with five and six-figure debt burdens? It happens so quickly, and you’re suddenly drowning in near-hopelessness that will take decades to dig out of.

Great accomplishments are always rooted in producing more than we consume, saving the difference. This is capital formation, the seeds of progress.

But it’s the opposite of what happens in most households today.

Credit cards, mortgages, student loans, HELOCs, car loans, payday loans and Goddamn mattress-financing, it’s a potpourri of foolhardy behavior, consumers, corporations, and governments, all stuffed to the gills with borrowed money.

Somehow, the most important concept to success in life is not taught or even discussed in 13 years of mandated, mind-numbing, government “education”.

Ever wonder why?

The Blob

Our system of money needs your children to go into debt.

It will entice, seduce, nudge, and coerce both you and your children to borrow ever more money. The life you want is just around the corner…

Sure, this is how companies sell product, but it’s much more insidious than that. Without the constant issuance of new loans, the financial system collapses.

The mechanics – in short – are that every dollar in existence is created as an interest-bearing loan. We need more dollars tomorrow to pay back the principal PLUS the interest. The only way that happens is if yet more loans are issued.

Your boy Liam and my little girl Mia need a credit card balance, an auto-loan, and $100,000 of student debt, and soon. If that doesn’t happen, existing loans in the system begin to default, causing a cascade of bankruptcies.

It’s like the blob.

When it’s not growing, it’s collapsing, like the busts of 2000 and 2008. These convulsions are a function of how much bad debt has been wracked up (so you can plan on the next one coming, and for it to be even bigger).

For these reasons, your family is goaded, coached, and coerced to borrow ever more money, regardless if that debt is sensible for you.

Understanding this is the most important thing you can uncover with your children, but collectively, we can’t teach it in school.

Even mainstream financial gurus dare not discuss it. It’s taboo. We can’t teach it, so many of them don’t even understand it.

We cannot talk honestly about it without destroying (and resetting) the system. That would (will) be disruptive, and compromise the powerbase.

So, we truck along on blind, dumb faith. We kick the can and cross our fingers, shoveling ever more kindling on a mound of dry tinder.

How much debt do you have, and for what?

Good vs Bad Debt

Debt itself isn’t all “bad”. Some is good, and some is bad.

My family has more debt than you can shake a stick at, with enough digits to make a local telephone call. I rationalize most of it as “okay”, though not “great”.

Great debt pays itself off with income left over as profit. This is called “self-liquidating”, like borrowing money to start a business with great cashflow.

Next up is low-interest, fixed-rate, tax-advantaged, long-term debt used to purchase appreciating assets (or those that hold purchasing power against an inflating currency) like real estate. The only way “the blob” can keep growing is through massive inflation. Position accordingly.

But, no one is teaching these concepts to your kids.

No one helps them prepare. Instead, they’re pushed into the world like wind-up toys, herded using crowd-psychology into bad debt. Consumptive debt.

One marshmallow today, none tomorrow. Come on, Lucas, everyone is doing it…

Perhaps your parents didn’t crack this nut for you. The pie was growing from a small base, and it’s less problematic during a virtuous up-cycle. But as we reach the limits to growth, the days of blindly following the herd down a well-beaten path to prosperity are over. It’s our responsibility to do better.

Your children and mine are like young sheep, either-

  1. On the way to get sheered.
  2. On the way to get slaughtered.
  3. Ducking out of the line, to think for themselves.

Step away from the herd, and let’s peel back the onion for them.

The right foot

How young is too young to learn about this? How young is too young to learn about touching a hot stove, avoiding predators, how to swim, or eat right?

Ingrain these ideas early, and your kids will instinctively make better choices and spot reckless, predatory behavior in finance.

You can do this for your children.

Make it fun with the BadDaddy, full-color children’s book series. Due first are “Where does money come from?” and “Good-Debt, Bad-Debt”. These are critical subjects to share and discuss with your kids, before they make mistakes.

Join our email list today for notification when deliveries begin, and for a limited time, every fourth email address receives “Good-Debt, Bad-Debt”, free of charge.




(This gives us insights into how many books to print, and by giving 25% away free, we encourage interest, social sharing, and forwards).

Prepare your children for a financial system that does not have their best interest at heart. This is a head-start that not one in a 1,000 will uncover. So grab a seat, before the music stops.

Join the BadDaddy community today — no obligation whatsoever — and start sticking it to the man. And always, always, question authority.

No ads, no spam, and no bull. Just straight-talk for free-thinking parents (plus free books, and cool volcanoes and stuff), every 3-4 weeks, right to your Inbox.

Want to learn another secret about the money system? Try Father’s Day Dilemma.

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