December 20, 2012

Ever wondered what you might look like at the age of 107?

Bank of America Merrill Edge has launched a new app called Face Retirement, which allows you to peer into a crystal ball and watch as wrinkles form on your face and your jawline sags, with the aim of bringing the future uncomfortably closer to home - and hopefully shocking users into saving more money for their retirement.

The age-enhancing technology is proven to work: In an experiment conducted by New York University, people who saw age-enhanced images of themselves said they would put 6.75 percent of their paychecks into a 401(k), compared with 5.2 percent from those who weren’t exposed to their future selves, Merrill Edge reports. Face Retirement may be a fun gimmick but it is one that the mass affluent and baby boomers might want to pay particularly close attention to: while the retirement age is 65 in the United States, people expect to live approximately 16 years in retirement. A Stanford University study noted in 2009 that two-thirds of early baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1955) do not have the resources to maintain their preretirement standards of living in retirement.

Further, the fall 2012 Merrill Edge Report notes that half (52 percent) of mass affluent have saved less than $250,000 for retirement. As a result, more than half of respondents in a survey said they plan to retire later than they had one year ago (56 percent), a year-over-year increase of 19 percent from November 2011.

Alok Prasad, head of Merrill Edge, notes that Face Retirement is designed to minimize the gap between how consumers live today and how they foresee themselves in the future.

“The biggest challenge is to get people engaged. We created a tool as a fun way to engage individuals,” he says. “People are focused on the immediate reward and trying to satisfy a need for now. But when people see an image of themselves, they become more sensitive to what the future may look like and allocate more funds for the future.”

The proprietary Merrill Edge Face Retirement tool uses facial recognition technology, allowing users to input their age and gender and use a webcam to provide a photo. Merrill Edge users can then view images of what they will look like at various ages in the future, as well as preview forecasted costs of living, such as what milk or a loaf of bread will cost in 20 years time. Users can then learn about options to begin saving.

And if you’re feeling really brave, you can even share pictures with your Facebook friends of what you’ll like at 87 or 107.

“A lot of consumers are relying on friends and family for [retirement] guidance,” says Paul Vienick, managing director at Merrill Edge. “The friends circle is an important one. One of the things we’ve done is to allow users to post a picture to their facebook account. As long as they feel comfortable, we want to create an icebreaker to a sensitive topic,” he adds. People will say, ‘Hey, you can’t believe what I’ll look like at 90’. It’s about bringing the conversation to what life will be like at 90. “

You can check out the Merrill Edge Face Retirement tool here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melanie Rodier has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for over 10 years, covering business and finance, general news, and film trade news. Prior to joining Wall Street & Technology in ...