Many millennials fear that they aren’t saving—or aren’t saving enough—for retirement. Can gamification help the largest generation in the United States labor force level-up their financial savvy to achieve budget and savings goals?
“Games and gamification—taking everyday activities and making them more game—like—become powerful tools to motivate participation and behavior change,” explains Jason Young, founder of MindBlown Labs. The Oakland, California innovation lab creates custom retirement-planning tools for companies looking to engage employees and clients born between 1981-1996.
Young recently spoke with Jody Hoff, director of Education & Outreach at the San Francisco Fed, about his company’s philosophy and approach.
“If you look at people who are really good at saving, a key piece is that it doesn’t feel like deprivation. It feels like achieving a goal,” says Young.
The first step is to engage people in a way that makes personal financial planning and investing less intimidating. Instant gratification also comes into play.
“Games are great at breaking things down very simply. In addition to that, people are very bad at making choices when the consequences of their actions are separated, in terms of time, from the choices that they make. Games condense time. There’s actually a term for this: game time. You get to see immediately if I make this choice, I get that result. It’s a safe environment to experiment, make different choices, see the outcomes, and refine your behaviors,” Young says.
The most successful games reach people emotionally and help them visualize themselves in the future.
“[With avatars], you’re able to model behaviors and see the impact of behaviors on your avatar’s life. There’s research that when people are able to see themselves when they’re older, it changes the way they think about decision-making. They now have an emotional connection to their future that doesn’t exist in everyday life,” says Young.
Positively leveraging social pressure is another effective tactic.
“You have leaderboards. You also have the opportunity to play side-by-side with somebody else, whether that’s collaborating or playing against them,” explains Young. “You don’t want to be the only person who didn’t play the game.”
Importantly, as people become comfortable with their retirement planning tools, conversations begin.
“People don’t want to talk about their finances with other people. Games can open the door,” says Young.
Tune into the Does College Matter? podcast for the full interview.
Does College Matter? is produced by the San Francisco Fed Education & Outreach team and hosted by Director Jody Hoff as part of its college and career readiness initiative.
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- Millennials: 1 in 6 now have $100,000 socked away
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- Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force
Quotes have been edited for clarity. Views expressed are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.