Does seeing your future self help to save more for retirement?

Change My Face & Future Face
4 min readAug 25, 2022
Change My Face age transformation

Most people find it hard to save for their future, because let’s face it, it’s hard to relate to getting older and besides there are so many more pressing financial commitments. The pot of money that the average person needs to live off in a comfortable retirement seems unsurmountable to many, especially after a tough few years living through a pandemic.

In the US, a new study by Clever Real Estate shows the average American is not saving enough for retirement and 37% are not saving at all.

The survey of a thousand people goes on to report that only one in three current retirees have enough in retirement savings and that 75% carry debt.

In the UK, Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice said:

“Saving for the future feels like an impossible task for millions of people.

“For a lot of households the money coming in often matches the money going out which means there is little or nothing left to save. Without some sort of nest egg people don’t have anything to fall back on if there is a sudden expense or change

Change My Face software has been used in different research programmes and pilot schemes to measure the success of appearance based interventions in behavioural change for both health and finance.

Change My Face collaborated with Ideas 42, a New York based company who applies cutting-edge behavioural insights to the world’s toughest social problems worked with the Mexican Government to deliver a pilot scheme to encourage Mexicans to save towards their retirement. This work was supported by the MetLife Foundation.

In order to comfortably retire, Mexicans need to voluntarily contribute to their retirement. Less than 0.5% of the nearly 40.5 million registered account holders make at least one contribution each year resulting in approximately 41% of elderly Mexicans who live in poverty.

The process : During the research photographs were taken of the participants and used in a controlled exercise. Using virtual reality technology all participants entered a virtual environment where they saw a reflection of themselves in a mirror: Half of the participants saw themselves as they are now and the other half saw their future self with wrinkles, jowls and gray hair.

Following the exercise all participants were asked to allocate $1,000 among four options: to buy something nice now, to invest in a retirement fund, plan something fun or put money into a checking account.

This resulted in the participants who saw their aged avatars empathising with their future self and allocating nearly twice as much money into their retirement fund as the other participants who did not see their future selves.

After allocating the money the participants who only saw their current image were shown the aged avatars of the other participants. After having seen the aged images of the other participants, it did not affect their choice of allocating money, proving that only when we see our own future self are we likely to favour long-term rewards.

The Change My Face software raised awareness through messages and through the use of a visual example. The software used for the pilot scheme featured an ageing photo filter allowing the user to download a current photo of themselves to see an image of their future self together with savings messages. The messages highlighted the need to make larger and more regular contributions.

The result : “The ageing software created by Change My Face had an immediate impact. During August 2018 the number of Mexicans making a one-time contribution towards their retirement increased by 13% and raised the average amount contributed in that month by 1,327 MXN. This equates to an increase in the total amount saved among account holders in the treatment group by 54%.”

This pilot scheme stemmed from the research undertaken by Hal Hershfield, Professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management, proving that when an individual visualises their future self they are more likely to make plans for their later life. In Hal’s words: “My research asks, ‘How can we help move people from who they are now to who they’ll be in the future in a way that maximizes wellbeing?’”

Behavioral science encompasses the study of how humans make decisions and act in the real world. In this pilot scheme Ideas 42 reported that empathizing with our future selves improves savings. To make retirement feel more vivid there needs to be visualisation exercises and trageted messages including goal-setting activities. Utilising the technology provided by Change My Face allowed those with the app to see their future selves and motivated them to take immediate action to save for their retirement.

In conclusion, the pilot scheme helped to reveal that when provided with visualizations alongside targeted messages, people generally tended to save more and this appears to be a recipe for success in improving societies’ health, wealth and wellbeing.

Change My Face helps many financial organizations to boost customer savings and investments. Ask us for more information.