I look at families and have noticed that the eldest child typically has a stronger personality, is more authoritative (perhaps from years of watching the younger siblings) and decisive, whereas the youngest child may be a bit more go-with-the-flow and have a bit of a sense of entitlement. The baby typically does get spoiled simply because there are usually more resources for him/her since the older children have moved out. I enjoy (very much) being the youngest child in my family. I do generally go with the flow but wonder if this sense of entitlement has tainted me at all. I look at the overwhelming number of toys our daughter has an only child and it almost seems hopeless to try and teach her the less-is-more principle. To her, there is always more; and more is more. But I digress…
All of the research I’ve read over the years about which people experience the most financial security and freedom keeps coming back to one key element: the ability to delay gratification. Think about it; the entire premise of saving for retirement (undeniably the single biggest financial issue) is about taking some of what you have today and keeping it for your tomorrow self = delaying gratification.
I’ve heard the marshmallow experiment results more times than I can count. Haven’t heard about it? It’s when they took a bunch of children and placed one marshmallow in front of them. They could eat the marshmallow any time they wanted, but if they waited the 10 or 15 minutes specified, they would get two marshmallows. They followed these children throughout many years – into adulthood – and found those children who waited for the two marshmallows maintained this same behavior (delayed gratification) in other areas of their lives and, thus, were more financially secure.
What does this have to do with birth order? I wonder, if the eldest children had to wait longer for items they desired, if that either exhibited itself in the ability to delay gratification OR the rebellion against it, and the desire or even compulsion to purchase what they want, when they want, because now it’s their money and they call the shots.
And the babies of the family, if they were typical/provided for/spoiled, do they have a sense of entitlement throughout their lives or long for a sense of self-accomplishment, self-discipline, and self restraint when it comes to their finances?
There I go again, asking questions to which I haven’t the slightest answers.
What do you think?
Photos courtesy of ClipArt