Heirlooms can raise more than feelings of nostalgia. They can also boost your savings rate.
That’s the finding of a recent study by Brad Klontz, a psychologist, certified financial planner and associate professor at Creighton University. The object was to find out whether tapping into your emotional connections to nostalgic items could inspire you to save more.
Here’s how it worked: In five cities — Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Dallas and Seattle — experimenters invited the public to a seminar on savings. When participants arrived, they were sent to one of two rooms. The first group heard a standard presentation on financial literacy, which touched on the importance of saving, the power of compound interest and various saving strategies.
The second group was told to bring an item of sentimental value. They arrived with teddy bears, Grandpa’s watch, wedding rings, aged photos of favorite family vacations and all manner of mementos. In their room, they were given a tri-fold board and art supplies, magazines, scissors and glue. “It looked like a kindergarten classroom at art time,” says Klontz.
After being cued to visualize the memories connected with their items, participants used the art supplies to depict those memories on the first panel of their board. On the third panel, they wrote or depicted the emotions the memories elicited, expressing why the memories were so meaningful and the values underlying them. Concepts conjured up included happiness, family, home, safety, security, adventure. On the middle panel, participants identified their top three savings goals, in words or pictures. They were told to be as specific as possible — not “retirement,” but “retirement home on the beach.”
Three weeks later, Klontz found that both groups had increased their rate of saving as a percentage of income. The financial literacy group boosted their savings by 22 percent; the emotional group, by 67 percent, with increases in the five cities ranging from 40 percent to 115 percent. The experiment shows that one way to get around the primal human instinct that makes it hard to delay gratification for some future goal is to connect that goal with other primal, motivating emotions, says Klontz.
To try it at home, find something meaningful, and ask yourself what feelings or values you associate with it. Chances are, they’re also what underlie your savings goals. To tap those emotions, envision the future as specifically as possible. Tape a picture to your mirror, or use an evocative image as your screen saver. Set up automatic contributions to a savings or investment account while you’re fired up, and name the account – you might contribute more to the Red Maserati fund or the Family Oceanfront Condo account.
(Anne Kates Smith is executive editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.)
(c) 2018 Kiplinger’s Personal Finance; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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