Activity: Before You Make That Decision…Consult Your Future Self

In this era of immediate gratification, it is often difficult to think even days or months ahead..forget about years ahead in the future (which may explain why we do such a poor job of saving for retirement).

Marketplace’s David Brancaccio (article + 4 minute audio resource) to the rescue with an idea that neuroscientists think should help our myopia:  interview your future self.  Let them explain:

If there is no cure, some exercises may help. Professor Kable said even brief reveries pondering future events might help reduce discounting’s effects.

One exercise I like is not my invention, but seems right out of Charles Dickens. Before making a big financial decision, why not try interviewing one’s future self? After all, the Ghost of David Brancaccio’s Future has skin in the game, and that ghost deserves to have his say.

It is this future self who might judge that it is right to spend a fortune on college because my children will end up with more fulfilling lives. Yet, my future self might warn me from 2045 that he is stuck eating cat food because of that golden $17,000 Apple Watch I really had to have in 2015.

How to apply to the classroom?

  • Have students identify two money decisions that they are currently pondering.
  • Ask students to step outside themselves and think about their decisions from the viewpoint of someone about to retire (they will love seeing what they look like at this age with this simulation).
  • Have them create a script where their current self interviews their future self about these two financial decisions.