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Increasing savings by thinking of your grandma/pa self

How empathising with your future self could help you make better long term savings decisions

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There is growing evidence in the behavioural economics and psychology space that empathising with your future self might help you make sacrifices today that are beneficial in the long term (like good financial behaviour).  

In his TED Talk "Could your language affect your ability to save money", Keith Chen argues that people with futureless languages (like Chinese and Finish) tend to save more money than people with future languages (like English).  Chen argues that future languages like English grammatically compel you to cleave off future events from the present and treat them differently.  These events are far off ("It is raining today" seems a lot closer than "It will rain tomorrow".)  However, futureless languages like Chinese force speakers to think about the present and the future in the same way ("it rain today" and "it rain tomorrow" seem a lot more similar).  Chen argues that these futureless grammar structures nudge speakers to think about the similarities between the present and future and help with savings behaviour.  In other words, language helps Chinese and Finish speakers to empathise with their future selves in a way that English speakers can not.  

Similarly, a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania found that including an aged avatar of a person on a 401(k) form (a program that enables US employees to divert some wages to a retirement plan) increased the likelihood that that person would set more money aside for their 'future' aged selves. 


How might we use empathy for our future selves to help change the behaviour of our current selves?
How might we use small visual or verbal cues to nudge us towards behaviour that will help us in the long term?






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