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Future-Think

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler

An image of a delicate hanging silver bell.

The next time you meet with an investment counselor, don’t be surprised if you are handed a photo of how you will look twenty or thirty years hence. In the category of “What will they think of next?” Hal Ersner-Hershfield and a team of researchers at Northwestern University conducted a study to see whether people would save more money if they could imagine how they would look in the future. They hypothesized that most of us don’t save enough for retirement because we don’t empathize strongly enough with our future selves. We know we are going to get old, but we can’t seem to make an emotional connection with our future selves.

To remedy that, they utilized off-the-shelf software aimed at video game developers and employed an age-progression algorithm to alter photos of people participating in the study. The result? According to the study, participants who came face-to-face with their future selves were willing to set aside more than twice as much money for retirement as those who only saw their current selves.1

Of course, Jesus was no stranger to the idea of investing in the future. At one point he even offered his listeners a fail-safe investment plan—one that is neither vulnerable to scamming nor subject to market turmoil. According to him, when we share our resources with the needy, we will have treasure in heaven—riches that can never be stolen or destroyed. Faith, not the latest software, is what will help us envision our future lives. As you ask God for greater faith, act on the faith you do have by giving generously to the poor.

 

  1. Benjamin Carlson, “Facing the Future,” The Daily, March 14, 2011.
 
Originally published October 12, 2017.

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