Word-Of-the-Week #766: Gratification

April 11, 2019 by  

Gratification – that which gives pleasure or satisfaction.

How good are you at saving money? Do you have any unused gift cards? Are you waiting for the “perfect time” to plan your dream vacation?

This from Liz Weston on  “How to know when it’s OK to spend”  is a timely follow up to last week’s Frugal. She writes, “Some people are much better savers than spenders. That can become a problem.

Certified financial planner DeDe Jones recalls clients, retired schoolteachers, who loved to travel but kept putting off the trip to China and Southeast Asia they’d always wanted to take.

“The husband started having health issues, and they missed the opportunity,” says Jones, managing director of Innovative Financial in Lakewood, Colorado. “The widow is doing fine financially, but is feeling regret.”

The ability to delay gratification is important for building wealth. But gratification delayed too long can leave us unhappy with the results.

Many of us experience this on a minor level when we put off using gift cards, drinking that special wine or booking a trip with our frequent flyer miles. We wait for the “perfect” time to indulge, and sometimes miss out entirely — the store goes out of business, the wine turns to vinegar, the miles expire.

THE TROUBLE WITH ‘SPECIAL’

Recent research published in the Journal of Marketing Behavior found that once we label something as “special,” we can wait too long to enjoy it.

Researchers Suzanne Shu of UCLA and Marissa A. Sharif of the University of Pennsylvania used a variety of experiments, including having participants imagine they had a free pass to a concert venue, to track people’s willingness to indulge and their self-reported satisfaction with the results. Participants could see the list of 20 musical acts that could potentially play the venue over the 15-week season, but each band was announced only the week it would be appearing. People given a “VIP access” pass waited longer to use it, hoping for a more popular act, than the people given less exclusive passes. Those who delayed often wound up settling for an act they had rated as mediocre to use the pass before it expired and expressed more regret about their choice than those who exercised the pass sooner.

Interestingly, some of the techniques that help people delay gratification can also help them avoid delaying it too long.

One technique is called “pre-commitment.” We make hard decisions in advance, such as agreeing to future automatic increases in our 401(k) contributions or paying for a dozen personal training sessions at the gym. For those who have trouble spending, pre-commitment could mean buying the airline tickets for that special trip or setting a deadline for making a purchase.

Having a financial plan can also help. Knowing you’re on track saving toward retirement and other goals can give you permission to enjoy your spending, says CFP Charlie Bolognino, president of Side-by-Side Financial Planning in Plymouth, Minnesota.

“In a sense, our spending then becomes something we’re expected to do: ‘I’m just following the plan!’” Bolognino says.

This week’s focus is on gratification. How often have you delayed gratification to you your own detriment? How would it feel to not wait for the “perfect time” to take advantage of something you want? Have you ever thought about making  “pre-commitment” plans?

Stay tuned…more on this next week!

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