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Are you gutsy enough to take the Grit Test?


When you have a kid, your whole focus in life changes. Before Baby RB40 came along, our priorities were just to have fun and enjoy life (while saving money of course.) However, after RB40 was born, our focus shifted from ourselves to our kid. Now, rather than worrying about achieving more success for myself, I worry more about how to help our kid succeed. But how can we go about doing that?

I’m sure you have heard of the Stanford marshmallow experiment. During the experiment, a marshmallow was offered to a child, and if the child could resist eating it right away, he would get two later. If he ate the marshmallow, he would only get the one. The author followed up with the children as they grew older and found that the ability to wait longer translated to future success. That makes sense to me because the ability to delay gratification will help you succeed in personal finance as well.

There must be a way to teach a child better self control and the ability to delay gratification. I’m not sure if I am doing a very good job here though. I have been trying to teach our little guy how to wait a bit and he just won’t have any of it. Yesterday, I got home from the library and needed to check something on the computer for 5 minutes, but he wanted my attention right away. I kept saying wait and he kept pushing a book in front of my laptop. I finally had enough and tossed the book two feet away and he had a huge meltdown…. I felt like a terrible dad. I should have paid attention to him first, and then got online after he was distracted by something else.

Perhaps it’s wistful thinking to try to teach a 2 year old toddler self control. However, I think it’s good to start building character at an early age. I just read How Children Succeed by Paul Tough and he suggested that character is more important to success than natural ability (like intelligence.)

Here are the 7 character traits that are vital to success:

  • Grit – perseverance and passion for long-term goals.
  • Curiosity – desire to learn.
  • Self-control – having control over one’s emotions and actions i.e. the ability to put off eating the marshmallow.
  • Social Intelligence – capacity to effectively navigate and negotiate complex social relationships and environments.
  • Zest – living life with a sense of excitement, anticipation, and energy.
  • Optimism – good attitude and the belief that things will turn out well.
  • Gratitude – being thankful for someone or something and showing appreciation

I like the idea because it means everyone can be successful if they cultivate the right character traits. Your natural ability might be average, but if you work hard and have the right attitude, you’ll do well in life. We will teach Baby RB40 all the basics like reading and math, but we’ll work on his character as well.

Grit is quite interesting to me in particular. Life in America is pretty cushy for the average middle class family. My family immigrated to the US when I was 12 and we had plenty of challenges. Learning a new language, trying to fit in, and even just paying the rent were some of the challenges we faced. I don’t think Baby RB40 will face those kind of challenges so we’ll have to think of something else. I’ll sign him up for sports and other extra curricular challenges so he’ll have some obstacles to overcome as he grows up.

If you are interested, you can take the Grit Test (just 8 questions.) Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychology professor, has been conducting researches this topic and her talk is quite interesting.

Higher grit scores translate to doing better at the Spelling Bee, getting through the Beast Barracks at West Point, higher GPA, and higher education attainment. I think it probably translates to sticking to an investment strategy and asset allocation as well.

My grit score is 4.13, but I’m not sure how accurate that is. I tried to be honest, but that seems high to me. The scale is from 1(not very gritty) to 5 (extremely gritty.) Mrs. RB40 also took the test and her score is 2.88.  Did you try the test? What’s your grit score?


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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 43 comments… add one }
  • My Financial Independence Journey February 25, 2013, 8:37 am

    I got 4.38. Apparently, I’m grittier than 90% of the US population. I would not consider myself gritty, but I suppose if you look at my educational achievements, investment strategy, etc. maybe I am. To be fair, I am considered by others to be needlessly conscientious, too obsessed with planning for the future, and a bit OCD rather than gritty.

    • retirebyforty February 25, 2013, 2:48 pm

      That’s great. It shows you can keep your head down and push through challenges.

  • SavoirFaire February 25, 2013, 8:50 am

    We are ChildFree so I can’t relate to the kid thing but we do have a dog. I can tell you however that the “wait” training is relevant to dog training. Like any training it must be done in small steps. To get a dog to wait and stay you have to give them the wait command and have them wait for about a second, then give a treat. You then continue this process over time gradually making the wait time longer and longer in small increments. I know nothing about kids but I’d imagine something similar would work — ymmv! 😉 It should be noted that a treat doesn’t always have to be food, it could be some interaction (in the case of a dog it could mean playing with a ball). Any kind of training doesn’t happen immediately and it’s always important to be consistent, so this means both you and Mrs. RB40 must do the same thing always. I know it may sound weird to relate dog training to child development but my friends who are parents agree that it’s not all too different for some situations.

    I have read that when kids are at an age where they start to understand instructions, before going somewhere you should discuss how to behave in that situation. This could apply to church, eating out, the movies, etc. This way they have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them in a certain situation. You must do this every time though so the process is consistently reinforced.

    • retirebyforty February 25, 2013, 2:50 pm

      I need to find a good book on training your kids. Great tip about behaving. He’s been mostly good, but he threw a few tantrums a few times over the last couple of weeks. He wants to stay out and play while we want to go home and have lunch or something like that. Right now he doesn’t listen to reasons very well.

  • Moon February 25, 2013, 10:18 am

    My grit score is 3.88 which translates to me being grittier than 70% of the US population. I thought would get a higher score but I struggled with the questions about new ideas and projects. I generally am not a risk taker and like to stick with what I originally thought. But lately I did change my mind about things when new ideas come along (will try to share if you end up blogging about “February is over – still keeping your new year resolutions?” kind of post. 😉

    • retirebyforty February 25, 2013, 2:52 pm

      I will write about the new year resolution update next week. 🙂

  • nicoleandmaggie February 25, 2013, 11:15 am

    My son did the marshmallow test for someone’s dissertation. He passed it at age 4. 🙂 We’re working on the growth mindset.

  • Steve February 25, 2013, 1:22 pm

    “[My] grit score is: 3.25. [I am] grittier than at least 40% of the US population.”

    Maybe… it seems to me I am well below average in terms of finishing things (or even starting them), so maybe I just didn’t answer honestly enough.

    • retirebyforty February 25, 2013, 2:54 pm

      It’s hard to answer because it’s so subjective. I tried to be honest, but my score seems too high to me.

  • Mike February 25, 2013, 1:24 pm

    Didn;t take the quiz as of this comment (I’ll take it later today). It seems that it could be a good measure for seeing what you are good at. And it might be something that better aids you in being able to get yourself going in a direction that you might not have thought about before.

  • David W February 25, 2013, 1:52 pm

    Hmm, 3.5 which puts me dead middle.

  • Silly Lily February 25, 2013, 2:05 pm

    My score is the same as Mrs. RB40.

  • sin camisa February 25, 2013, 2:49 pm

    I got 2.88. And when you get a score like that, you know you’ve been honest.

  • Nick February 25, 2013, 2:50 pm

    My grit score is 3.75….interesting. I would have thought that I would be a little higher than that, but I guess I do have a tendency to lose interest in things from time to time.

  • Greg February 26, 2013, 2:34 am

    I got a 3.75 Grit score, but a few of the questions seemed off to me. I forget the exact wording of the questions, but one was ‘I finish whatever I begin’. In two or three of the questions, my answer could be swayed by what my employer wants. So even if I try to finish what I begin, if my employer wants different, how do I answer that question?

    I’d also like to add an 8th character trait that I feel could be important to have – humbleness. Not a required trait to be successful. But not a bad trait to have anyway.

    • retirebyforty February 26, 2013, 4:11 pm

      I see your point. Sometime you don’t have control over that situation. Humbleness came up in the book “good to great” too.

  • Kathleen, FrugalPortland February 26, 2013, 5:40 am

    3.13. Not the grittiest one of this bunch!

  • Little House February 26, 2013, 6:57 am

    I came out a 4.88 (and I had to take it twice – the first time it didn’t score my answers!) That’s very much like me…I’ll keep going even when things look bleak and stay optimistic. That’s either grit or naivety.

    • retirebyforty February 26, 2013, 4:11 pm

      Oh wow, you’re like the Churchill of PF bloggers. 🙂

  • Do or Debt February 26, 2013, 7:57 am

    I got a 3.38. I know my weakness is that I easily get discouraged and dwell on setbacks. Something I am working on! I think for me currently, the characteristics that are most salient right now are: zest, optimism, gratitude. Those traits have increased my overall happiness and productivity.

    Something that is not on the list, which I think I have that helps a lot is resiliency.

    • retirebyforty February 26, 2013, 4:13 pm

      Isn’t resiliency the same as grit? 3.38 is pretty good right? Lately I’m not very zesty. I don’t think I’m getting enough sleep… 🙁

  • Brick by Brick Investing February 26, 2013, 7:57 am

    I received a grit score of 4. I’ll try and stay on this path!

    Our daughter is currently going through the same things. We are constantly trying to show her what “waiting” means and that when she wants something she has to wait. Obviously like you this situation has resulted in numerous meltdowns, but we have noticed that the meltdowns get shorter and shorter which should be a good sign. Thank you for the book recommendation, I have added it to my Amazon wish list!

    • retirebyforty February 26, 2013, 4:14 pm

      I need to get together with the missus and come up with a game plan to deal with the little guy. I just need to keep my temper and let him cry it out. Such a stubborn child…

  • John S @ Frugal Rules February 26, 2013, 12:14 pm

    My grit score was a 4.63. While I would say that it’s close to that, I do think it’s a bit too high.

    “Perhaps it’s wistful thinking to try to teach a 2 year old toddler self control.” I think it is a bit hopeful, making small strides is definitely achievable. We have a 5, 3 and 1 year old so I can attest to the challenge of it, but it is really neat to see them have small victories and once they start grasping it is when the growth begins.

    • retirebyforty February 26, 2013, 4:15 pm

      Thanks for your advice about small victories. I need to read up on how to deal with a toddler. He seems to be getting more and more difficult (just episodes.)

  • Sustainable Life Blog February 26, 2013, 1:44 pm

    Your grit score is: 4.63

    You are grittier than at least 90% of the US population.

    Kind of surprised by this, but then again, who knows. I have noticed from my own personal monitoring that I keep working on things that I can see a tangible benefit out of or enjoy far longer than I would if it were a project I was uninterested in.

  • Darwin's Money February 26, 2013, 3:03 pm

    Oh yes, I love the grit test; I’ve written before on the SOLE determinant to success in life… deferral of instant gratification. It manifests itself in everything. Many people just don’t have any self-control and are poor, unhealthy and unhappy as a result.

  • Gina February 26, 2013, 3:58 pm

    Wow, my grit test was 2.3 something.. Do I feel like a loser, or do I just ignore this goofy test that has 0 applications to my life?? Hmmmm

  • Wayne @ Young Family Finance February 26, 2013, 6:26 pm

    Although not easy with a single child, I’ve found that teaching sharing does a pretty good job teaching patience and good social skills at the same time. However, I think most of RB40’s impatience is more a condition of his age.

    • retirebyforty February 27, 2013, 2:07 pm

      He is pretty good at sharing. When we go to story time, he can share toys and such.

  • Rob @FinancialSprout February 26, 2013, 7:57 pm

    My grit score is a 3.25, but that may change with maturity as I get older. I’m still a teenager, so I tend to be less patient. Although, I do tend to have longer term goals than most of my peers, which is a good thing.

    • retirebyforty February 27, 2013, 2:08 pm

      Wow, you are doing great! I think it will improve with experience too.

  • Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter February 26, 2013, 8:28 pm

    LOL, I have a grit score of 3. That sounds about right. 🙂 I never considered myself all that gritty and I do flit around from goal to goal – I am only super diligent on the big stuff.

    • retirebyforty February 27, 2013, 2:08 pm

      It’s the big stuff that counts right?

  • Digital Personal Finance February 27, 2013, 11:33 am

    I scored a 4.25, which means I’m “grittier” than 90% of the U.S. Population! Really, I think it’s so important to recognize these important traits as parents, to try to guide our kids to being able to have many of them. I’m guessing some is probably innate, but I think that some can be acquired too.

    • retirebyforty February 27, 2013, 2:15 pm

      I think it’s all up to the parents to encourage these good traits. A kid is blank slate and I don’t think there are too many innate characters built in. I could be wrong.

  • Linda February 28, 2013, 7:18 pm

    Holy crow, I got a 3.38!

    I’m great at delaying gratification…maybe too good, in fact. I have an problem with recognizing and celebrating successes, too. I need to learn how to do that better.

  • Dave March 1, 2013, 4:01 pm

    My grit score was 4.88.

    I am a long term planner. When I was in high school I planned out most of my long term goals. I have completed all of them. I am in my retirement job now and well I could retire now, but I like my current job. I am think about retiring around 45, I am 42 now.

    When I was in high school I did not exactly how I was going to complete them my goals. I just work on them. Some took a little longer then I expected, but I have been able to achieve them.

    The biggest problem for most people is they don’t know what they would really like to have. Well things that are realistic. Winning the lottery is not a realistic goal.
    Then they need to make small steps in the direction they want to go. But this require work and most people just don’t want to do the extra work.


  • AspiringYogini March 3, 2013, 6:03 am

    Hi RB40! I think you are a very good Dad to your Baby RB40; you are with him so much and you are really working hard to do it well. However, when I thought about the situation when he had a meltdown, I wonder if it was a reaction to your reaction and not because of his getting what he wants at the time. So your idea that you should have taken care of him first and not done the task you needed at the time, has another option. Perhaps if you explain to him calmly, that you will read to him, but that he has to wait 5 minutes until you can. Then he gets the reward and he gets thanked and is congratulated on being patient, as well as some good time with his Dad reading the story. And even better, you later tell Mrs. RB40 this story about how good he was, while he can overhear!! Double reinforcement; then he knows that both parents expect and are proud of this behavior. (I can say this after thinking about it, but I would probably have tossed the book AND yelled! It’s easier to analyze this than do the right thing in the moment.)

    I got a 4.38 on the Grit Test, but don’t consider myself a terribly gritty person. I’m more of a slow planner and plodder. I tend to have many projects that I work on little by little over long periods of time.

    • retirebyforty March 4, 2013, 8:20 am

      Yeah, I think you’re right. I’m trying to be calm all the time, but it’s difficult.
      We are working on the whole waiting thing. Thanks for the tips.
      Nice grit score.

  • [email protected] March 3, 2013, 6:54 am

    4.75 here, which is surprising but cool. I have been through the “stuff” and back. As a musician, I needed grit like crazy to battle through the tough times while everyone else was quitting around me…so I get it. Thanks for this!

    • retirebyforty March 4, 2013, 8:21 am

      Great! You’re right about musicians. It takes a lot of determination to master an instrument.

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