Free for 90 days: Sign up now and get 90 days managed free after your first deposit. See offer details

Coming soon: our new one-on-one advice packages. Learn more

Now available: our new one-on-one advice packages. Learn more

Get your entire Smart Saver balance managed free for 3 months. Enroll today

Get your entire Smart Saver balance managed free for 6 months. Enroll today

Introducing Smart Saver: You could earn 1.83% with our low-risk investing account for your extra cash.* Learn more

Financial Planning

Having a Hard Time Saving? Channel Your Future Self

To kick your savings into high gear, create an emotional connection to your future self. Research shows that people who interacted with their future selves were more willing to improve savings.

Articles by Betterment Editors

By the Editorial Staff
Betterment Resource Center  |  Published: April 23, 2012

If you could chat to your future self, what would you say? What would your future self say to you? If you’re like many Americans at risk of coming up short in retirement savings, it would probably be something like:

“Get your sh*t together!”.

According to studies, humans have a hard time empathizing with our future selves. It’s like picturing a stranger, which explains why some people tend to favor short-term gratification (i.e. spending) over long-term savings.

The same researchers decided to explore this idea further. They created two scenarios: one where people were shown an image of themselves, digitally altered to make them look much older (as above); the other where people were simply shown a virtual version of their current selves.

Later, participants were asked a number of questions on finance and retirement. Those who had interacted with their future selves were more willing to increase their long-term savings, than those who had not.

It’s a fascinating example of how money management is inherently psychological.

The critical take-away from this study is that we need to start focusing more on long-term thinking. It’s important, however, to create an emotional connection to your future self.

Take time to picture the life you want to live in 5 years, 10 years, and 40 years. Visualize the things you enjoy doing now, and think of retirement savings as a way to continue doing those things (and more). Betterment provides goal based investing, which helps to make saving more meaningful (and easier all round).

Recommended Content

View All Resources
Optimizing Performance in Lower Risk Betterment Portfolios

Optimizing Performance in Lower Risk Betterment Portfolios

In this methodology, we provide insight into how we optimize the performance of the lower risk bonds in Betterment's portfolios, including Smart Saver.

How We Use Your Income to Calculate Retirement Spending

How We Use Your Income to Calculate Retirement Spending

Learn how your current income plays a role in calculating your desired retirement spending level in the future.

Top 3 Life Insurance Policy Riders to Consider

Top 3 Life Insurance Policy Riders to Consider

When shopping for a life insurance policy, you can pick from additional riders and features. Find out which ones Haven Life believes are most crucial to help protect you and your family.

How would you like to get started?

Your first step toward a smarter investing future starts here.

Create a Betterment account

Go ahead and join the smart, modern way to invest.

See what we can do for you

Tell us a bit about yourself, and we'll show you the benefits of investing with us.

Get a free investing checkup

Help us get a sense of your investing approach and see how you could improve.

Transfer a 401(k) or an IRA

Move an existing retirement account into a Betterment IRA.

Download the mobile app

Enjoy the Betterment experience anywhere on the go.

Search our site

For more information and disclosures about the Betterment Resource Center, click here. | See our contributors.