Makin' Money

Virtual reality and impulse savings

Chris Farrell Mar 28, 2011

Companies have long mastered the art of triggering an impulse buy. From the grocery store to the shopping mall, companies are really good at stoking our desires and our spending. It’s about time we gave more effort toward creating opportunities for impulse savings. That’s the challenge scholars at Stanford University have taken on. They have young people stare into a mirror and see what they will look like a half century from now, according to Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Zweig. It’s a fascinating article.

Staring into a mirror today and seeing yourself as you will look in the year 2057 is unnerving. But that may be just what it takes to shock Americans into saving more. At Stanford and other universities, computer scientists, economists, neuroscientists and psychologists are teaming up to find innovative ways of turning impulsive spenders into patient savers.

Talk about scared savings. The various attempts to encourage savings Zweig highlights are important. Here’s a call for many more innovative ideas for promoting impulse savings in our consumer society.

That’s what Ogilvy adman Rory Sutherland has done. In talks he has suggested ideas for making opportunities for savings. How about mobile text campaigns that remind you to save rather than shop? Technologists could devise a large red button for the home and whenever you hit it $50 were dumped into your 401(k)? I looked into these and other savings ideas in a commentary for Marketplace Money.

The area of mobile banking looks increasingly promising, especially as apps expand. For instance, companies like Piggymojo are out to turn the thought “I should save this money rather than spend it” into a spur-of-the-moment savings action.

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