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Can you pass the marshmallow test?


by Roger Marsden
Head of Retirement Solutions Products and Services

If you haven’t heard of the marshmallow test, it’s a famous psychological study conducted by Walter Mischel in the 1960s. He took children into a room one-by-one and left them with a marshmallow and a promise: if they could wait 15 minutes to eat the marshmallow, he’d give them another one.

What’s wrong with instant gratification?

Mischel tracked the children over time. He found that the marshmallow-resisters went on to achieve higher academic results and secure better jobs. They enjoyed longer relationships and were healthier. In short, they led more successful adult lives than the children who ate the marshmallow.

Why self-control pays

To me, this is about more than marshmallows. The ability to exercise self-control in everyday life – like resisting a marshmallow, choosing the gym over the sofa, or making time for paperwork – can really pay off.

That’s why we do things we don’t want to do. For me, it’s filling in my tax return, which has become my annual nemesis. But I do it for the same reason those children resisted the marshmallow: I know if I don’t, it’ll cost me.

Make a short term / long term trade off 

It’s the same with application forms. People don’t like them, but the short-term pain of completing an annuity application form can be far outweighed by the long-term gain of getting a higher retirement income. 

And, believe me, it’s worth taking your time. The more you tell your annuity provider about yourself, the more personalised your annuity quote will be. That’s always a good thing for customers. Some people – like those with poor health – will get a higher income in retirement as a result. But even if you don’t qualify for a higher income, there’s nothing extra you can put on your application form that will mean you get less. You can’t lose.

 Trust me, you need to know this

I think it’s vital that people know this, and don’t lose out simply because they haven’t completed their application form as fully as possible. Especially as once you’ve bought an annuity, you can’t usually change it. That’s it, for life.

Everyone deserves a personalised retirement income.  To make sure they get it Aviva is working with the retirement industry to improve and standardise application forms. We want to make it easy for customers to give annuity providers the information they need to offer personalised annuities, every time. You can read more about this in our Rethinking retirement in the UK report.

I always say this, I know, but I’ll say it again. Get professional financial support and research your options online before you buy an annuity. Try our retirement centre. You’d shop around for any other big life purchase, so why not for an annuity?

Remember, being a marshmallow-resister sometimes means doing things you don’t feel like doing. But it’s worth it.

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WC04068 11/2012

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