One of the primary challenges of retirement planning is finding a way to get as much happiness as possible from your retirement savings.
The good news is that behavioral science has some important strategies that can help.
The even better news? You can explore which retirement strategy might work best for you by eating chocolates.
You are given a box with four chocolate truffles. You can only eat one chocolate a day. These are the truffle descriptions:
- Dark chocolate truffle with hazelnut cream
- Milk chocolate truffle with salted caramel
- Milk chocolate truffle with almonds
- White chocolate truffle
1) Which truffle would you like to eat first?
2) Which truffle would you like to eat last?
3) What was your ordering strategy?
a) I ate my favorite truffle first [1 points]
b) I ate my favorite truffle last [2 point]
c) Neither of the above [3 points]
4) You are offered three different spending plans for retirement. The plans differ in how your spending changes over time. Please mark which one of the plans you prefer.
a) Spend more now, and gradually less over time. [10 points]
b) Spend less now, and gradually more over time. [20 point]
c) Spend the same year after year. [30 points]
What did you prefer? Research by Chris Hsee at the University of Chicago shows that many people feel happier when the rewards they get change over time. Yet most retirement plans are set up to give us the same amount of money every month, year after year. Unfortunately, such a “flat” drawdown plan can have a numbing effect, generating smaller amounts of pleasure over time.
By offering people personalized approaches for drawing down their retirement savings, we can increase its impact.
It’s not about making do with less. It’s about finding ways to enjoy the paychecks that you do get even more.
Which drawdown strategy is best for you? Add up your points. If you got 11, then you probably want bigger paychecks early in retirement. (Your PaceIt paycheck will still get inflation boosts.)
Although this strategy might seem less responsible, it might be the best approach if you’re worried about not being able to enjoy your savings later in life, typically because of health issues. Isn’t it better to go to Disneyland with the grandkids before your hips start to hurt?
In contrast, if you got 22 points, then you probably want bigger paychecks later in retirement.
Such a plan might be especially useful for people who like things to improve over time. Because their spending is gradually increasing, they can enjoy the expectation of better times ahead.
Lastly, people who got 33 points might be happiest with a spending plan that stays the same.
It might seem strange to use a box of chocolates to help determine our spending strategy in retirement. But just as some people prefer different dessert strategies, so do some people benefit from different drawdown strategies in retirement.
There is no best approach. There is only the approach that makes you the happiest.
1) If you got 11 points, and generally feel that life is too short, you should spend more now, even if it means having less later in retirement.
2) If you got 22 points, and generally want life to get better over time, you should spend more later in retirement.
3) If you got 33 points, you prefer to spend the same year after year.
4) If you got any other number, your preferences are inconsistent. In such cases, you should pay more attention to your retirement spending preferences. Eat chocolates however you’d like.
Additional Reading: Hsee, Christopher K., and Robert P. Abelson. "Velocity relation: Satisfaction as a function of the first derivative of outcome over time." Journal of personality and social psychology 60.3 (1991): 341.