Sims, T., Raposo, S., Bailenson, J. N., & Carstensen, L. L. (2020). The future is now: Age-progressed images motivate community college students to prepare for their financial futures. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. doi.org/10.1037/xap0000275
Part of the challenge young people face when preparing for lifelong financial security is visualizing the far-off future. Age-progression technology has been shown to motivate young people to save for retirement. The current study applied age progression for motivating socioeconomically diverse community college students as part of a college planning course. We recruited 106 students enrolled in a mandatory “Transitioning to College” course and randomly assigned them to view age-progressed or same-aged digital avatars. Compared to controls, age-progressed participants gave more correct answers and exhibited higher confidence (i.e., fewer “don’t know” responses) on a financial literacy test. Confidence mediated the effect of age progression on correct responses, but not the other way around, pointing to financial confidence as a precursor to effective financial education. Students also reported interest in attending more long-term financial planning workshops (e.g., investing and retirement) available through their college. No differences were observed in financial planning for the near term (e.g., student aid and credit cards). The current study demonstrates the viability of age progression as a practical, inexpensive, and scalable intervention. Findings also illustrate the significance of this intervention for reducing pervasive socioeconomic and age disparities in financial knowledge and enhancing long-term financial prospects across future generations.