You Make Better Decisions If You “See” Your Senior SelfSubmitted by Moneywatch Advisors on September 12th, 2019
Ever use one of those aging apps where you take a photo and the app ages you 20 or 30 years into the future? I won’t look like that! That’s crazy! Delete! Well, not so fast my future wrinkled friend. Maybe an app like that can inspire us to invest more for our retirement or exercise more or cut out sweets…well, let’s not get carried away.
In a study by Hal Hershfield, an economist from UCLA, people who viewed aged images of themselves were more inclined to increase their savings for retirement. Hershfield used software to age half of the subjects in his study with jowls and wrinkly skin – all those things that won’t actually happen to me or you, thank goodness. They then gave all the study subjects a fictional $1,000 and gave them four choices for how to use that money: investing in a retirement fund, give a gift to a friend now, planning a fun event or putting money into a checking account. People shown their aged images put twice as much money into their retirement fund as those who weren’t. If shown aged images of someone else, though, their choices weren’t affected.
Should I invest in that man below?
You aren’t surprised that donors give more money to charities when they hear directly from the beneficiaries or that pulmonologists smoke less than other doctors because they see dirty lungs for a living. There’s considerable research that shows we respond with emotion when we actually see things for ourselves in vivid reality – no imagination required. Similarly, when people can see images of themselves as they may be 20 or 30 years in the future, they are more inclined to feel an emotional response that can inspire behavior that will help their future self.
Studies have shown we have a third person type of image when we picture ourselves more than about a year into the future. For instance, picture yourself blowing out your birthday candles at your next party and you’ll view that scene as if from your own eyes. Picture that party 20 years from now, however, and you’re likely to picture the scene as if an observer in the room – in 3rd person mode. Remarkably, we don’t think of our current and future selves as the same person. No wonder then that, given the choice, it’s so much easier to spend my earnings on ME NOW, than some other guy 20 years from now that I’ve never met.
There are all kinds of applications for this. Maybe we’ll be more inclined to exercise, stop smoking or recycle.
This is meant to be fun but, who knows? Try it – at least maybe you can amuse your friends and scare your spouse.
Steve Byars, CFP®