Have you ever tried one of the popular aging filters on social media? I have, and so have about 9 million other people (if not more!). Some of the filters are eerily realistic, using artificial intelligence, or AI, to show how your face will age. You can see what having wrinkles and gray hair will look like, and even how your face will change shape as you get older. Most people try it just for fun, but there might be an even better reason to do it:
To improve your spending and saving habits.
Seems like a bit of a stretch, doesn’t it? There’s research to back it up, though.
In the early 2010s, a group of researchers published the results of a research project that explored the “present and future self”1. Along with his colleagues, Dr. Hal Hershfield discovered that people who interacted with age-progressed renderings of themselves tended to allocate more resources to their future.
Why? Because once they were able to vividly imagine being older, it was easier to connect to that version of themselves and make decisions to benefit that person. In other words, clearly visualizing yourself in your golden years can motivate you to make smart financial decisions for your future.
Before you rush off to find that aging filter, hold on a second! I’m not advocating for an immediate, hilarious selfie session on social media — although trying the aging filter certainly is fun (and somewhat shocking!). Instead, I’m championing the idea of saving early and often.
So, let’s get started. Here are five decisions you can make now to ensure your future self is financially comfortable and worry-free.
5 Money Moves to Make Early On to Secure Your Financial Future
1. Set up an emergency fund.
Sometimes surprises can be fun — like when you first see yourself through an aging filter. You’ll probably even laugh a bit about it afterward. Other times, surprises aren’t amusing — like when you have to pay $4,000 to replace the transmission in your car.
Life is unpredictable, and that’s why an emergency fund is so important. It’s your financial safety net. Having one means you won’t have to go into debt when life takes an unexpected twist or turn. You should save at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in your emergency fund, and if you can, build it up to cover a full year.
I know that feels very hard to do, especially when the cost of living is high like it is now. It’s OK to start small, just as long as you start. Think of it this way: Saving $20 a week — that’s about $3 a day — adds up to $1,000 in a year. That’s a great beginning! And if you put that money into an account that earns interest, you can make it work harder for you, which brings me to “money move 2”.
2. Take advantage of compound interest.
If the future you could give the present you financial advice, I’m sure he or she would tell you to invest your money wisely and always look for opportunities to use compound interest to your advantage. You’ll never regret it!
When you invest your money in, let’s say a savings account, it can earn interest, depending on the type of account you open. With compound interest, you not only earn interest on your initial investment but also on the interest that your money generates over time.
For example, let’s say you invest $1,000, and it earns an annual interest rate of 5 percent. In the first year, you’ll make $50. But in the second year, you earn interest not just on your initial $1,000 but also on that $50 you earned in the first year, totaling $1,050. So, in the second year, you earn $52.50, and the snowball effect continues.
The sooner you start, the longer your money has to grow through this compounding process. Even if you can only afford to invest a small amount regularly, it can add up to substantial wealth over time.
3. Leverage employer benefits.
In the present, you might have just gotten your first full-time job. Future you is already saying, “Check into the retirement benefits!” Your employer may offer a retirement account, such as a 401(k), that you can open. Then, every time you get paid, a portion of your salary (you choose how much) will be automatically taken out of your check and put into your 401(k) account, where it gets invested in stocks and bonds. Over time, these investments grow — thanks to compound interest!
Many employers provide matching contributions up to a certain percentage. This is essentially free money. Assume you put in $3 a day, and your employer matches it, now you have $6 a day going into your retirement plan. You’ve already doubled your money, even without compounding interest!
Of course, this is a very simplified example, but it illustrates why you should contribute at least enough to get your employer’s full match. Doing so will significantly boost your retirement savings and help you achieve your financial goals faster. It’s like a bonus for your future self!
4. Research saving beyond the 401(k).
While employer-sponsored plans are fantastic, it’s also smart to explore other saving options to increase your financial security. Your future self will thank you for doing this.
Consider opening an individual retirement account (IRA), either traditional or Roth, to complement your workplace plan. IRAs offer additional tax advantages and flexibility, and they give you more control over your investments.
Certificates of deposit (CDs) are popular now, too, because interest rates have gone up over the last year. When you put your money into a CD, the bank promises to pay you back the initial amount plus some interest when the CD "matures" or reaches its end date. It’s like a guaranteed reward for keeping your money safe. If you have some savings that you can lock away for a set period, CDs usually offer higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts.
Again, both IRAs and CDs offer compound interest. Always take advantage of that when you can!
5. Use digital tools to save and manage your money.
Back in 2011, when the researchers were testing their theory about age-progression renderings, they used sophisticated virtual reality tools to conduct their experiment. Today, pretty much everyone can “age” themselves simply by hopping on social media or downloading an app. Technology has made life easier in many ways, even helping us save money and manage our finances.
Automated savings, for example, quietly works behind the scenes, helping you build a financial safety net without lifting a finger. With this feature, you can set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings or investment accounts. It’s a simple yet incredibly effective way to ensure you consistently save money, and it’s especially handy for those of us who might forget to save regularly.
Personal finance management tools — often found in online banking platforms — can guide you through your spending habits. These tools provide a clear, real-time picture of your finances. With Bank of Utah’s My Money Hub, for example, you can categorize your expenses, track your trends, set budgeting goals and see your true net worth. When you know exactly where your money is going, it’s easier to make informed decisions about your spending and saving priorities.
By implementing these five money moves early in your financial journey, you’re setting yourself up for a secure future. Whether it’s building an emergency fund, using compound interest to your advantage, maximizing employer benefits, exploring various savings avenues, or using digital tools to save and manage your money, each step takes you closer to your financial goals.
Start now. Maybe try out that aging filter to get motivated. While it may shock you and provide you with a good laugh, your real future self will thank you for your foresight and financial savvy.
Alyssa Cales is the branch manager at Bank of Utah’s Brigham City location. She has worked for the bank for almost four years, first as an account manager, then in her current role. She loves helping customers find the best products to meet their short- and long-term goals. Originally from Tremonton, she enjoys dirt biking, camping, hunting and fishing with her husband and dog.