Saving

One mental trick that can motivate you to save more money for retirement

Twenty/20

Even though it isn't difficult to set up an IRA or 401(k), committing to regular contributions can feel hard. About half (52%) of Americans say they are behind where they should be when it comes to retirement savings, according to a 2019 Bankrate survey. And 38% have never had a retirement account.

Our inability or unwillingness to picture our own retirement can make it even trickier to save. But research has shown that picturing our future is a strong savings motivator.

Getting older is "going to happen. Invest accordingly," Joshua Brown, CEO of investment advisory firm Ritholtz Wealth Management, said in a recent Instagram post showing a reunion of the (now older) models in the Distracted Boyfriend meme.

Brown pointed to the results of a 2011 study published in the Journal of Marketing Research, in which half of the participants were shown a digital rendering of their face at age 70. The other half were shown a picture of their current self. Both groups were then asked how much money they would save for retirement.

"The people who had seen themselves as older men and women ended up saving and investing more than the others," Brown wrote in his Instagram post. As the 2011 study put it, if you don't feel connected to your future self, saving feels like a "choice between spending money today or giving it to a stranger years from now."

Making a connection with your future self

Visualizing your retirement may not be as fun as picturing other goals, like buying the home of your dreams. It forces you to think of what your needs will be when you're much closer to death — and people are not "hard wired to be future-oriented in that way," Harold Pollack, co-author of "The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn't Have to Be Complicated," told Grow last year.

"When you're 33, the idea of retirement is not fun," Pollack says. "Because it's also the idea that you're old."

When you're 33, the idea of retirement is not fun. Because it's also the idea that you're old.
Harold Pollack
co-author of "The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn't Have to be Complicated"

But as life expectancy increases, retirement is going to represent decades of your life, Brown tells Grow. "We have to think about 20 and 30 years of retirement," he says.

So, taking some time to think about what you want those decades in retirement to look like, and what you will look like, may help you feel more motivated to save for that goal. It can help to have visuals, like a vision board of what you want to do in retirement, and maybe even a digitally aged photo of yourself.

"In order to make saving more emotionally rewarding, it's often helpful to put something attached to it to make it more tangible and fun," Pollack says. "You have to understand what's going to give you mojo."

More from Grow:

acorns+cnbcacorns cnbc

Join Acorns

GET STARTED

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us

All investments involve risk, including loss of principal. The contents presented herein are provided for general investment education and informational purposes only and do not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any specific securities or engage in any particular investment strategy. Acorns is not engaged in rendering any tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult with a qualified professional for this type of advice.

Any references to past performance, regarding financial markets or otherwise, do not indicate or guarantee future results. Forward-looking statements, including without limitations investment outcomes and projections, are hypothetical and educational in nature. The results of any hypothetical projections can and may differ from actual investment results had the strategies been deployed in actual securities accounts. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

Advisory services offered by Acorns Advisers, LLC (“Acorns Advisers”), an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Brokerage and custody services are provided to clients of Acorns Advisers by Acorns Securities, LLC (“Acorns Securities”), a broker-dealer registered with the SEC and a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (“SIPC”). Acorns Pay, LLC (“Acorns Pay”) manages Acorns’s demand deposit and other banking products in partnership with Lincoln Savings Bank, a bank chartered under the laws of Iowa and member FDIC. Acorns Advisers, Acorns Securities, and Acorns Pay are subsidiaries of Acorns Grow Incorporated (collectively “Acorns”). “Acorns,” the Acorns logo and “Invest the Change” are registered trademarks of Acorns Grow Incorporated. Copyright © 2019 Acorns and/or its affiliates.

NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns Grow Incorporated.