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Plan For A Better Future

Whether it’s your health, your finances or even your education, it can be hard to get on track and make plans for the better you of the future. But before you feel guilty about your lack of self-control, it may not be your fault, it might just be that visualising your future self is more difficult than we think.

Understanding the future

As much as we like to think of ourselves as imaginative and creative beings, the truth is, we’re probably not imaginative enough to really predict our future selves. Remember being a small child and thinking someone in their 20s was ancient? You may even laugh thinking about it but perhaps you haven’t changed as much as you think. It can be hard to picture yourself in 10 years, 20 years or even 50 years, which makes it harder for you to plan for the alien future being who will hold your name.

According to studies, the less able you are at picturing and relating to your future self, the less likely you are to plan for it or even sacrifice your present needs and desires for it. There is even a name for it, temporal discounting, which means if you think your motives and values are likely to be similar in the future to now, you are more likely to do something that will benefit you in the future.

Problems the future you…

If it’s hard to connect yourself to the future, why would you save money? Or try to invest wisely? Studies in 2009 and 2012 even noted the better you can picture your future and feel connected to your future self, the better your capacity to save assets. That is, you care about your future self so you actively try to make life better for the future.

Whether you connect to the future or not isn’t a static thing though. Life circumstances can intervene and whether you feel like you have power or control will then impact on your view of the future. For example, one study found people who may have some degree of power or control at work tend to feel more connected to the future. The study suggested that the ability to control even an aspect of your environment may make you feel like the future is more certain – and in turn, you feel more connected to the future.

Mind over matter …

Even someone who feels really connected to their future self can make decisions that only benefit them in the here and now. In this situation, biology has a hand.

If your primal needs, like hunger, are managed, you are more likely to spread your focus beyond the present time. This might explain those impulse purchases at the supermarket when your stomach is rumbling but you were trying to save money (or help your waistline with healthy buys).

Retrain the brain…

Deep down, you probably know you should do something about the future. Maybe you want to sort out your superannuation. Or plan for a big overseas trip. So how do you force yourself to do it?

There are a few things you can use to ‘trick’ yourself into feeling more connected to your future.

1) Picture your future self

Whether you talk through with someone else what you could be doing and how you could be living, use an aging app like Aging Booth or write a letter to your future self, you can help connect yourself.

2) Think similar not different

Instead of thinking differences between you today and you in the future, think of similarities and you’ll be more likely to be planning for it.

3) Reframe time

If you describe the future in days rather than years, it makes it feel closer and helps you take action7. For example, say you are in your 40s. Does retirement feel closer when you say it is around 9,100 days away or 25 years away? It’s the old 99 cents v $1.00 trick.

4) Manage your body’s needs

Don’t go hungry to an important meeting about your finances. If you want to manage your health by going to the gym, go to bed earlier so you don’t feel too tired to go the next day.

While you’re trying to focus on your future, don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes it’s ok to be a bit more focused on the present. After all, life is a journey, not a destination so make sure you take time to enjoy it too.

If you are still struggling with planning for your future finances, speak to Stu our Principal adviser who is expert in this area. Request a call back from us.


Atance, C and Meltzoff, A (2005) My future self: Young children’s ability to anticipate and explain future states, Cognitive Development 20 341-361.

- Bartels, D. M., & Urminsky, O. (2011). On intertemporal selfishness: How the perceived instability of identity underlies impatient consumption. Journal of Consumer Research, 38, 182-198.

- D'Argembeau, A., & Mathy, A. (2013). Tracking the construction of episodic future thoughts. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 140, 258-271. doi: 10.1037/a0022581.

- Ersner-Hershfield, H., Garton, M. T., Ballard, K., Samanez-Larkin, G. R., & Knutson, B. (2009). Don't stop thinking about tomorrow: Individual differences in future self-continuity account for saving. Judgment and Decision Making, 4, 280-286.

*Original article published by BT Financial.


This information is current as at 07/08/17. This article has been prepared by Heart1Stop, a social media brand owned by Heart Mortgage Services and Heart Financial Advisers. The information contained in this article is an overview or summary only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor relied upon as such. The views expressed here are not those of Heart1stop, Heart Mortgage Services, Heart Financial Advisers, shareholders, directors or staff and associated contractors and business associates. This article has been prepared without taking into account any person’s objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, you should, before acting on any information contained in this article, consider its appropriateness, having regard to your objectives, financial situation or needs. Any taxation information contained in this article is a general statement and should only be used as a guide. It does not constitute taxation advice and is based on current laws and their interpretation. Each individual’s situation may differ, and you should seek independent professional taxation advice on any taxation matters. While the information contained in this article may contain or be based on information obtained from sources believed to be reliable, it may not have been independently verified. Where information contained in this publication contains material provided directly by third parties it is given in good faith and has been derived from sources believed to be accurate at its issue date. It is not the intention of Heart1Stop or Heart Mortgage Services and Heart Financial Advisers that this publication be used as the primary source of readers’ information but as an adjunct to their own resources and training. To the maximum extent permitted by law: no guarantee, representation or warranty is given that any information or advice in this publication is complete, accurate, up to date or fit for any purpose; and no party of Heart1Stop or associated entities as mentioned is in any way liable to you (including for negligence) in respect of any reliance upon such information. This article may also contain links to websites operated by third parties ("Third Parties") who are not related to Heart1Stop. These links are provided for convenience only and do not represent any endorsement or approval by us.

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