Researchers at Stanford have discovered that simply showing someone an older avatar version of themselves inspires them to save more money.
The findings are due to a psychological behavior called the Proteus effect, in which “behavioral alterations in the real world are triggered by changes in how our bodies appear to us in a virtual world.” For instance, a subject who sees his avatar exercising is more likely to hit the gym in real life. In this case, people feel more of a connection to their older selves, and commit to saving more for retirement.
According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, “51 percent of American households are at risk of being unable to maintain their standard of living in retirement, up from 43 percent in 2004.” There is also a large gap between how much people think they’re saving and how much they’re actually saving. A 2008 study showed that one in five workers who said they were contributing to their 401(k) account were actually putting nothing in. Those who did contribute overestimated how much money they put in by 79 percent.