(Issue #515) Marbles

That got me thinking about a mindset for saving money.
Are we encouraged by punishment or reward?

Is losing your marbles beneficial or detrimental to your forward progress? In this case, I use marbles literally, not figuratively.

The authors of The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and We Can Rule It found that people “learn more and faster from punishment and reward…If you have to pick just one, the negative feedback stimulates learning faster than the positive.”

Which leads us to marbles for an example.

Consider two situations:

  • An empty jar into which a marble is placed for every right answer a student gives. She gets to keep the marble. Reward.
  • A jar full of marbles. For every wrong answer, a marble is pulled out of the jar. Punishment.

The authors found the students learned faster when they lost a marble.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

That got me thinking about a mindset for saving money.  Are we encouraged by punishment or reward? Would we save more (in the long-run) if we started with a fully-funded investment (marbles already in the jar) and focused on not losing the money?  (Not a likely starting point for most people I know.)  Maybe, instead of fully-funded, we start with the investments we have built over the last ten years. At this point, it represents our full jar. Would we be inspired and continue to put away even more money–or just make sure we did not lose any money?

Or do we accrue more wealth starting from zero (the empty jar) and continually add dollars, thereby growing the investment (marbles in the jar)?

Obviously, this depends on a lot of factors (such as discretionary income level, personal discipline, debt level, unforeseen events, or tolerance for risk).

Last week I found a one-page spreadsheet I had created nine years ago (2011).  On the left side of the page were the dates of my, then, bi-weekly paychecks. Across the top of the table were seven column labels. One was for a debt we owed, four were for different savings vehicles, and one was labeled “fun account” (the money we could use for our entertainment, dinners out, and the like). The seventh column was the total amount of money that went for all six allocations for each pay period.

Marbles going into the jar.

I do remember completing that table each pay day (constantly adding the “marbles”). I had an immense sense of satisfaction seeing the entries, and the growing the numbers in the last column.  Some weeks, one column or another got less than usual. There were a few negative entries (removing the “marbles”). That generally gave me pause and made me reflect.

I credit my mother with instilling the discipline of adding marbles to the jar.  That positive reinforcement has been with me for decades.  I learned early on to remove the marbles with care and thought.

Consider what works for you when it comes to a savings plan—and what short circuits your best intentions.

And check this past post regarding a demonstration I have performed to show how a penny can add up over time.

What have you done to not only gain but, also, keep from losing your marbles?


Video Recommendation for the Week

Listen to co-author of the Power of Bad, John Tierney, give a quick overview of the negativity effect. He speaks about a “low bad diet.”


Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.

My new book has been released.
eBook ($2.99) Paperback ($9.99). Click here.

Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.

Well, actually, my dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story.
Click here for more information about the book.

In the meantime, check out her blog.

And you can still order:

  • My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
  • Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®

 

About stevepiscitelli

Facilitator-Author-Teacher
This entry was posted in Discipline, financial literacy, Grit, habits and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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