We often see our future self as a separate person, so future savings can make us feel like giving money to a stranger. One antidote to this is to attach ourselves to our future self.
Let’s imagine our future self more colorfully, accurately and with the help of simple tools! The solution can be as simple as talking imaginatively to your “older self”. But we can also think about our typical needs, our desires, our greatest joys, and what we will most regret when we reach sixty-five, seventy, ninety-five, or one hundred.
Talking to our future self is a useful tool
For refocusing our thinking and forging greater willpower to overcome the temptations of the present. The more outlined, colorful and detailed the future is, the closer we become to our future self and the more we care about it.
A survey also showed that we underestimate the future by assigning an exact calendar date instead of a period. We are more likely to put aside a pension that is “2037. October 18, ”not“ in twenty years ”. This simple change makes the future more concrete and tangible. Human resources professionals and investment advisors often use this technique to inspire us to make more savings.
Of course, most of us cannot make future virtual tours while filling out our savings forms. How can we make the idea of meeting our older selves feasible for everyone? Maybe we could have a redesigned image of our older self on our pay card or credit card. Or, to make the most of our future desires, these cards could give us a sense of our older selves enjoying the perfect future – hiking, vacationing, playing with grandchildren, or launching our spacecraft …
Realizing he could not overcome the mythological monsters
The mythological Odysseus knew that if he heard the sirens sing, he would follow them and then he and his sailors would sail to destruction. But he wanted to hear the sirens. However, realizing he could not overcome the mythological monsters, he asked his companions to tie him to the mast of the ship. In this way, he could hear the sirens singing, but he could not follow his desires, that is, them. He also ordered his sailors to fill their ears with wax so they could not hear any sea creatures. It worked. The ship escaped.
We can call the agreement of the Odyssey any agreement that sets limits to future temptations. We do not leave ourselves a choice; we eliminate free will. Well-known Odyssey contracts include, for example, the use of a credit card limit, the exclusive use of a prepaid credit card, and the complete elimination of our credit cards and the use of cash only.
Another wise approach is to make our retirement and other savings an automatic default. Therefore, if we want to get out of them, we have to be active. This not only eliminates the predictable problems of future savings and balancing the temptations and needs of the present, but also eliminates the barrier to a one-time sign-up. If we are automatically included in a retirement savings program, our inertia and propensity for laziness will drive the water to our graces; it is highly likely that we will leave everything behind and save for retirement. The concept of automatic joining contradicts traditional economic thinking – that is, always seeking informed, rational decisions – but perfectly follows the zigzag path of behavioral science.
Let’s play guilt!
We can also manipulate ourselves with other emotional tricks, such as nature’s greatest tool: guilt. Dilip Soman and Amar Cheema, in a study, found that it is less common to use money that is improperly labeled with children’s names than when they are left out of the process.
Yes, that’s right: Participating parents were encouraged to spend less and save more with cash envelopes tagged with their children’s names. How distorted, cruel and… honestly? Effective!