According to a Stanford University Study, individuals increased their retirement plan contributions by 30% when presented with projected future images (pictorial renderings) of themselves. Online technology is available for free at http://faceretirement.merrilledge.com, where you can project your future image. When you go to the site, your picture is taken (you need a webcam on your computer for this to work), and you enter some information about yourself (including information about your savings habits), and the site “ages” your image. I decided to try it out myself.
Using the software for the first time, I was nervous as to how well I would age. The results were not spectacular, but seemed reasonable. Being young and working in the pension industry, I already contribute a healthy amount to my 401(k), so seeing myself age, I was not too concerned about how much I am contributing toward retirement. More than anything I thought about my diet and how I take care of my body. I am a pretty healthy person, but it did make me think about eating more fruits, vegetables, and opting for chicken or fish as opposed to steak more often. Seeing projections of how I would age made me think of all the little things I could change along the way to improve the future me.
In order to get a better feel for the technology I tested out a few different photos, changing my smile, facial expressions, and (most drastically) shaving my beard. The results were always consistent, my head shape became squarer, my face wrinkled, my skin drooped and my hair turned gray. My only complaint of the technology is that no matter how big I smiled, as I got older my smile became a frown. I think this must be a subliminal message to keep users from getting complacent about their savings habits, as people seeing their future self may say “Hey, I look happy, I must be on the right track.” Overall, I can see how this technology would make somebody look at retirement and influence them to start planning early.
While the intent of the software is to help convince people to contribute more toward retirement, I found myself persuaded to live a healthier lifestyle. Seeing myself age 20 years at a time made me think about my future and how a few small changes could improve it. For me, those changes focused on the physical, but for you the changes may be more financial. I suggest trying the site out; it may inspire you to make small changes as well.