Stanford University

Connecting to Your Future Self:
Enhancing Financial Planning among Diverse Communities Using Virtual Technology

Sims, T., Bailenson, J., & Carstensen, L.L. (2015). Connecting to Your Future Self: Enhancing Financial Planning among Diverse Communities Using Virtual Technology. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, Orlando, FL.
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Abstract

Lower income, young adults are especially unprepared to enjoy financial security in old age (i.e., they tend to demonstrate low levels of financial literacy and long-term savings). Previous research finds that young adults interacting with an age-progressed avatar of themselves reported feeling more connected to their future selves than those interacting with an age-matched avatar. Moreover, these participants intended to allocate a greater proportion of their current income to a retirement fund (Hershfield, et al., 2011). This research, however, was limited to hypothetical behavior in a relatively affluent area. We sought to replicate and extend this work among economically diverse community college students learning about financial literacy. Ninety-seven participants were recruited from a “transitioning to college”course that taught financial literacy. Participants were randomly assigned to view either an age-progressed avatar or a current-aged avatar. Participants viewing the age-progressed avatar allocated significantly more money to long-term savings in hypothetical scenarios (e.g., allocated a higher percentage of their income to a savings account) than those viewing current-aged avatars. A subset of participants viewed their avatar several times throughout the course by progressively building a web profile for their avatar. Among this subset, participants viewing the age-progressed avatar multiple times scored higher on a financial literacy quiz at the end of the course compared to those viewing the current-aged avatar. Taken together, these findings demonstrate promising potential for practical and scalable integration of age-progression technology among diverse populations to enhance planning for a financially secure future into old age.

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