“The reason why we get ourselves into trouble is that we spend what we don’t have to buy what we don’t’ need, to impress people we don’t even like.” – Don Watney
My first job was delivering newspapers when I was ten years old. I was such a compulsive saver I still don’t think I’ve spent the money I earned. You don’t want to be like me. But the only thing most people save for a rainy day is their umbrella. Over 90% of people won’t be able to retire financially independent. They spend it all now and spend their retirement worrying.
Professor Hal Hershfield wanted to find out why. He discovered that when most people think about themselves in the present there is different neural activity in the brain then when they describe themselves in the future. In fact thinking about their future selves lights up similar brain regions as when they think of a stranger. That’s right, for most people saving feels more like giving – giving to some guy or girl they’ve never met before. So Hershfield conducted an ingenious experiment. Before asking people how much they were willing to put away for their retirement, he showed them an aged version of themselves, complete with greying hair and wrinkles. Fortunately after confronting themselves as grandpa and grandma none of them said they wanted to spend all their savings on Botox. In fact seeing those wrinkles prompted them to put away significantly more for their retirement.
Try it. Download Agingbooth. It’s a free app which will show you what you look like in old age. Don’t be alarmed. You may not love your future face but you’ll love your future bank account. Still not ready to see yourself as a pensioner? Next time you’re deciding how much to save, try imagining your future self. Picture all of the great things you want to do in retirement and the cash you’ll need to make that happen. One day You, will thank you. Now experiment on yourself.