Helping the Mexicans save for retirement
Client: Mexican Government / Ideas42
Duration of pilot scheme: August 2018
Change My Face collaborated with Ideas 42, a New York based company who applies cutting-edge behavioral insights to the world’s toughest social problems and the Mexican Government to deliver a pilot scheme to encourage Mexicans to save towards their retirement. This work was supported by the MetLife Foundation.
To comfortably retire Mexicans need to contribute voluntarily to their retirement accounts. Less than 0.5% of the nearly 40.5 million registered account holders make at least one contribution each year resulting in approximately 41% of elderly Mexicans living in poverty. A lack of awareness towards the benefits of saving is having a serious effect on their lives and their health.
The Change My Face software raised awareness through messages and through the use of a visual example. The software used for the pilot scheme featured an aging photo filter software allowing the user to download a current photo of themselves to see an image of their future self together with savings messages. The messages highlighted the need to make larger and more regular contributions.
The aging software created by Change My Face had an immediate impact. During August 2018 the number of Mexicans making a one-time contribution towards their retirement increased by 13% and raised the average amount contributed in that month by 1,327 MXN. This equates to an increase in the total amount saved among account holders in the treatment group by 54%.
Auriole Prince, Founder and Director of Change My Face said: “The aging software developed by Change My Face is hugely connected to behavioral change. Visualizing your future self is so powerful, when we see our future selves we make a connection to them and feel empathy; this helps people make better choices, whether that’s to do with their health and wellness, financial health or just making small changes to feel better. Making favorable changes to our lifestyle choices can transform our futures and improve our physical and emotional wellbeing. We are incredibly proud to have been involved in this project and to see first-hand how our software can make such an immediate and positive impact.”
This pilot scheme stemmed from the research undertaken from Hal Hershfield, an Associate Professor of Marketing, proving that when an individual visualizes their future self they are more likely to make plans for later life. In Hal’s words: “My research asks, ‘How can we help move people from who they are now to who they’ll be in the future in a way that maximizes wellbeing?’”
Hal Hershfield’s Research Into Emotional Responses Influencing Decisions
Giving people vivid examples heightens their emotional responses. Two strong examples to demonstrate this are: 1) when donors hear direct from a victim they are more likely to give more to charity and 2) the fact that pulmonologists smoke less than doctors who specialize in other areas as they see the effects of unhealthy lungs on a daily basis.
Hal partnered with Daniel Goldstein of Microsoft Research, Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford and other Stanford researchers with the aim to prove that individuals would change their spending and saving preferences when given a vivid example.
The exercise: During this research photographs were taken of the participants and used in a controlled exercise. Using virtual reality technology all participants entered a virtual environment where they saw a reflection of themselves in a mirror: 50% of the participants saw themselves as they are now and 50% saw their future self with jowls, bags under the eyes and gray hair.
Following the exercise all participants were asked to allocate $1,000 among four options: to buy something nice now, to invest in a retirement fund, plan something fun or put money into a checking account.
The result:The participants who saw their aged avatars empathized with their future selves and allocated nearly twice as much money into their retirement fund as the other participants who did not see their future selves.
After allocating the money the participants who saw only their current image were shown the aged avatars of the other participants. Seeing the aged images of others did not affect their choice of allocating money. This clearly proves that only when we see our own future self are we likely to favor long-term rewards.
Behavioral Science Findings From Pilot Scheme
Using Change My Face’s software in this pilot scheme, Ideas 42 were able to further their studies into human behavior.
Behavioral science is the study of how people make decisions and act in the real work. This study draws from decades of social science research to create a realistic model of how to view people. The standard approach to decision making is that people gather all the information, consider the pros and cons and make the best choice. The behavioral approach teaches us that individuals do not always choose the option that is best for them and make decisions with imperfect information.
Ideas 42 work to identify the subtle but important contextual details that can have a disproportionate impact on outcomes. Behavioral science proves that context matters and that by asking the right questions is critical and that simple solutions are often available.
In this pilot scheme Ideas 42 reported that empathizing with our future selves improves savings. To make retirement feel more vivid there needs to be visualization exercises and goal-setting activities, including labeled accounts, personalized reminders and regular feedback. Utilizing the software available from Change My Face to show digitally aged photos allowed account holders to see their future selves and prompted them to take immediate action and save for their retirement.
Encouraged by the results of the pilot scheme Ideas 42 adapted and customized a future visualization exercise for the account holders’ own smart phones that linked directly to the retirement savings app. Exposing the user to an image of their future selves helped them connect with their future selves and overcome the tendency to only focus on the present. These are the three components Ideas 42 took forward to the field:
- Users receive message inviting them to ‘meet their future self’ via a link.
- The link opens a web page with an aging filter. The users are encouraged to take a selfie to see their future self.
- An empathetic message appears with the aged photo “How much would you like to save for him/her to live well?” together with a link to the savings page.
Understanding how people react when provided with vivid examples and targeted messages is key to the success of all future schemes helping to improve societies’ health, wealth and wellbeing.