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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Not Saving Enough for Retirement? Look at a picture of yourself in 40 years.

Gotta love Carl in the movie Up (Disney/ Pixar).
Why is it so hard for us to save for retirement? I mean we all hope/ assume that we will be around for a long time or at least the foreseeable future right? We have heard that Social Security may be just a fond memory from our past. We don't really want to work every day until we die either; we want to spend our golden years doing something...right?

Saving for retirement is logical. However, its surprising how few people actually contribute what they should in order to live a comfortable retirement lifestyle; more than half the US population will not be able to maintain their standard of living in retirement (read more here). So while saving for retirement is the logical, rational, thing to do... we as humans are notorious for not being logical or rational in many of our decisions (think eating habits, exercise, spending too much!).

So why don't we connect with the idea that what we are doing today, directly impacts our future selves? According to Ersner-Hershfield, Wimmer, and Knutson (2009), we humans, don't think about ourselves in the future as actually being ourselves in the future, our brain patterns actually showed that it was similar to us thinking about a complete stranger! So essentially when it comes to saving money its like we are choosing between spending our cash now or giving it to a stranger!

So more research was done based on the idea that maybe if a person can feel more connected to their 60, 70, 80 year old self, that they might be more inclined to save at a higher rate for their golden years. How can they feel more connected? What about having them view a digitally mastered image of themselves in the future?

What was found that when, we humans, were able to see our future self, we were better able to relate, and also see the 'person' (me) who would be dealing with the implications of our savings decisions. This led to "results suggest(ing) that interaction with a vivid version of one’s future self causes individuals to give modestly greater weight to long-term saving." Read the entire article from the National Institute of Health (NIH) here.

So why not check out your old(er) self! You can find many sites and apps that will do this; try the Aging Booth app (there's also one for Android), or this website. They may not be 100% true to form, but let me know if it freaks you out enough to save more for the future!

An additional note... companies could potentially provide some sort of visual aging software to their employees if they upload a picture, but there is still an impact if, when an employee is in the midst of selecting retirement options, sees an older avatar smiling with more savings and frowning with less- they tend to contribute a higher percentage. Interesting!

Another additional note...this research was done on college students, and for good reason. If we can get all our 20 somethings saving for retirement now...just think of what they could have in the future! Don't you wish you started saving earlier?


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