Booya! Welcome to the very first “official” post at the relaunched, self-hosted, cheerfulegg.com! I spent the weekend migrating to a self-hosted website, which means I take your cheerfulegg reading experience seriously enough to actually pay to get those pesky ads removed. Woot woot.
Anyways, it’s been awhile since I posted a TED talk, so I’ll share one I thought was pretty interesting in a nerdy, academic sort of way. This one is by Keith Chen, who came up with a pretty interesting hypothesis:
Speaking Mandarin makes you more likely to save.
No, seriously, fareals. Check it out:
Okay more accurately, Chen argued that speaking a futureless language (like Mandarin) makes you more likely to save. Conversely, speaking a “futured” language (like English) makes you less likely to save.
The results seem to pan out in real life: China saves a whopping 54% of their income, while the United States saves a measly average of 7%.
So I got really concerned when heard this because I literally have the worst Mandarin in Singapore. I kid you not. Hawkers still stare at me in confusion whenever I order food.
So as a hopeless Mandarin speaker, am I doomed to suffer a crappy propensity to save for the rest of my life? (cue scary music: Dun-dun-duuuuuunnnnn!!)
Sorry, forgive me. I watched a midnight showing of Life of Pi last night (awesome film by the way, go catch it if you haven’t), so I’m a little delirious running on 4 hours of sleep. But back to our topic…
The Battle of the Selves
Chen’s TED talk reminded me of another TED talk by Daniel Goldstein, who argued that saving is pretty much a battle between your present and future self. Your present self wants satisfaction NOW, while your future self wants you to save more and ease up on the doughnuts, so that you can be richer and sexier in the future.
If Chen is right, language would force native English speakers to consciously “cleave time” and spend more effort to remember their future selves. On the other hand, Mandarin speakers don’t have that problem – their language subtly nudges them to think of their future selves as no different from their present selves.
In other words, when it comes to the epic battle between your present and your future self, speaking Mandarin is like subtly feeding your future self with steroids, helping future self to kick present self’s ass. Dang.
The thing is, language is a nudge. A Small Tweak. A little habit that sits in the background and quietly advantages your future self over the other.
So let’s come back to the question: If you don’t have the advantage of being a native speaker in a futureless language like Mandarin, are there other Small Tweaks you can deploy to help you save better?
Yes there are.
You know what else is an awesome nudge to have? Automated Savings.
That means setting up your life such that you’ll automatically save $X every month, without fail, forever and ever and ever, Amen.
The hardest part is actually setting it up. Once that’s done, you won’t even have to worry who’s going to win the fight between your present and future selves, because there won’t even be a fight. Your future self would win by technical knockout every single time.
And that’s just one of ‘em. Stay tuned, because I’ll be writing about other Small Tweaks you can use to save better in the coming weeks. Imagine how kickass you’d be if you spoke Mandarin and had the power of Small Tweaks behind you.
And if you can’t speak Mandarin to save your life (like me), it’s all good. Like me writing this blogpost on 4 hours of sleep, we’ll show that present self who’s boss.