How FaceApp Can Encourage Gen Z to Save for Retirement

In the last week, FaceApp has been rising in popularity since this viral Jonas Brothers’ tweet.

The Jonas Brothers tweet has inspired a number of celebrities and influencers to download FaceApp and many have shown their own results. FaceApp works like a time warp: youthful, smooth faces transform into crinkled faces filled out with laugh lines, crow’s feet, and forehead creases, all complete with white hair.

Launched in 2017, FaceApp is the latest viral sensation with a hashtag challenge. Users are uploading their results to their social media accounts and inviting friends, family, and followers to compare results. But as more Americans are downloading the app, there’s a growing concern over the app’s Russian origins.The concern was large enough where the Democratic National Committee warned campaign staff members to immediately delete the app or avoid it.

Aside from the app’s shady terms and conditions, FaceApp’s growing popularity is inviting all of us to take a deeper look at a subconcious question we all have. It's a question many of us didn’t even know we were asking: “What will my future look like when I'm old?”

Face Aging Technology

FaceApp is not the first attempt to employ technology to answer this gnawing question. The idea of facial aging technology has been around for years, but it's been utilized in a different context. Police departments use age-progression technology when releasing a missing child’s photo to the public.

Nowadays, FaceApp is taking our collective curiosity over aging and has packaged the answer into a downloadable app on your phone. A powerful technology formerly weaponized in missing child cases can now be used as a source of personal entertainment. However, perhaps the app can also serve its users by jumpstarting an important psychological process: one where users can look into their own futures and make better decisions accordingly.

Looking Into The Future

What does the future look like for apps users? In the reviews section, users have described the experience as “funny,” “uncanny,” and “thought-provoking” as they stared at the older version of themselves on their phones. A female reviewer described how seeing the pictures helped her realize that her approach to each day mattered. She saw a time-morphed picture of her husband, which inspired a tenacity to fight for a successful and long-lasting marriage.

Most users will take delight in this temporary form of entertainment, but as the aforementioned reviewer shows, the app can instigate a power psychological effect that can inspire users to carefully contemplate their present decisions and their future lives. When a person is able to see an extraordinarily vivid representation of their future, it may startle, terrify, and even enlighten them into a moment of clarity and compassion for their future selves. Those of us who are already planning for our retirement may be incentivized to work harder, but those who are still in their late teens or early 20s, such as the Gen Z generation, may take the opportunity to think about life further down the road.

Research has shown that this type of self-compassion towards your future self can positively influence present-day choices. It can provide the motivation to practice self-discipline for a brighter future.

Why Future Self-Continuity Matters

We all know how difficult it is to keep New Year’s resolutions. We make plans to reach a certain goal, but somewhere along the way, morale is lost. Delayed gratification can be difficult to sustain without instant rewards and it’s easier to make decisions according to our current desires and needs.The Stanford marshmallow experiment is an example of this phenomena.

In the same way a six-year old child would have difficulty waiting for a larger but delayed marshmallow reward, 20-year-old adults may have difficulty imagining life at 65 and would have difficulty planning. As a result, many young adults may not be as conscious of the long-term effects of their choices. But if one were to build a stronger connection to the future version of themselves, there is a greater likelihood of positive decision-making for the future.

In a study conducted by UCLA professor Hal Hershfield, college students who were shown an age-progressed image of themselves were more committed to saving for their retirement than college students who were not shown this image.

Hershfield’s research dives into the disconnect many of us feel towards our future selves and proposes that this connection can influence and alter present decision-making. Hershfield’s study also shows that when people create an emotional connection between their present and future selves, they are able to make better choices to benefit their future.

In another study conducted by Hershfield, researchers examined whether health habits could be influenced by cultivating a stronger connection to the future self. In the experiment, groups of college students were randomly selected to write a letter to themselves in either 3 months or 20 years into the future.

Participants were asked to record their exercise habits over a period of two or ten days. Those who wrote the letter 20 years into the future reported exercising more than those who wrote the letter to themselves 3 months into the future. Hershfield’s study showed that those who developed a stronger sense of connection with their future selves were able to exercise more self-control and willpower when making choices concerning their health.

Since Hal Hershfield’s study shows the benefit of connecting with our future selves, it begs the questions: can age-progressive technology, such as that employed by FaceApp, be utilized as a tool for financial planning and retirement?

Retirement, Savings, and the Costs of Assisted Living

If you're 19 years old, looking at an age-rendered image of yourself may be amusing and down right freaky. but for a senior who's already 67 years old, using FaceApp would be like staring into the mirror.

For many older adults and seniors, saving for retirement and long-term care is of utmost importance because finances can heavily determine their later quality of life. According to a recent Schwab Retirement Plan survey, saving seniors believe they will need an average of $1.7 million in order to retire. As a rule of thumb, many financial planners recommend having six times your annual salary by the time you are 60 years old.

Aging adults also need to prioritize their health and keep watch of medical conditions, nutrition, and exercise as risks for disease and death increase. Declining health, injury, or chronic illness can bring up the idea of caretaking and care facilities. In dire health situations, seniors may require personal care aids or around-the-clock medical assistance, all which require a large amount of financial resources.

According to Senior Care Center, assisted living can cost upwards of $45,000 a year. Most people end up paying out-of-pocket because Medicaid and Medicare do not cover these costs. State-assisted programs can cover some services, but for the most part, many older adults will need long-term care insurance to cover costs.

Many older adults also have financial struggles arising later in life because of a lack of savings. In a survey conducted by GoBankingRates, over 58% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. With over half to two-thirds of Americans needing long-term care and assisted living, Americans are severely under prepared for senior care costs and retirement. Assisted living and senior care can be expensive, and working adults will need to include long-term care within their retirement plan.

How Gen Z Can Benefit From FaceApp

Future self-continuity means having a strong connection to the concept of your future self. Just as it was demonstrated in Hal Hershfield’s study, if one is able to cultivate a stronger sense of future self, there is a greater initiative for making beneficial decisions in the present timeline. In order to benefit from age rendering technology, Gen Z should utilize apps such as FaceApp to cultivate future continuity and plan for their own future.

Although turning 70 is a faraway dream for Gen Z, developing a strong connection to the future is crucial and formative for self-development. Whether it pertains to their future health, finances, or relationships, Gen Z, Millenials, and users of all ages can utilize FaceApp as a way to challenge themselves to make better decisions as they come to envision their future. Young adults in debt or without a savings plan should imagine what life would be like at age 70 without savings. Or those who need the motivation to make a change in their diet or exercise habits can do so with the help of an age progressed image. This exercise of the imagination can help one clarify what necessary changes need to happen to ensure a better result in the future.

Young adults can utilize age rendering programs such as FaceApp as a starting point in mapping out their desired futures. Here are some questions for users to consider as they view their age-progressed selves:

  1. What kind of finances and living do I want to afford when I am at this age?

  2. What kind of relationships do I want in my life when I am at this age?

  3. What kind of health do I want to be in when I am at this age?

  4. What kind of character do I want to have when I am at this age?

  5. What do I want to accomplish in my life before I turn this age?

These questions may be broad and overarching in the course of a person’s life, but as Stephen Covey said in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you must begin with the end in mind as you chart out your priorities and life goals.