Retirement Marketing – Putting Your Best Face Forward?

It’s that time of year again – new year, new resolutions. For many, it’s time to revisit their finances, including their retirement plans. How much should I contribute to my 401(k)? How should my money be allocated? Should I contribute to an IRA? What about my Rollover IRA? If you haven’t started thinking about it, there are plenty of materials and tools out there to help you. They’re chock full of worksheets and calculators designed to demonstrate the importance of saving for retirement (if you aren’t already) and what you might need in retirement (in an effort to get you to save more).

Recently, Merrill Edge launched a retirement planning tool to get you into planning mode. Called “Face Retirement”, it comes with the typical helpful tools – a Retirement Evaluator, an Asset Allocator and a Net Worth Estimator. What is most interesting about this tool is the “hook” they are using to draw users in. The tool asks you to take a photo of your face with your webcam, and then it proceeds to age you in 10-year increments over the next 60 years.

I think we can all agree that the days of retirement marketing featuring a good looking 60-ish couple drinking chardonnay on their vintage speedboat as they sail off into the sunset are behind us. Thanks to the economy of the past few years, retirement for many people doesn’t exactly look like that. And to their credit, most retirement marketers took note and started to feature images of retirement that are a little more simple and realistic. However, this particular tool might feel like its moved completely to the other end of the spectrum (more towards the scare tactic side).

I’ve decided to be brave and share my before and after photos for reference (see below). I’m not sure that seeing my aging process has inspired me to save more for retirement, but perhaps its made me think about spending a little more on face creams now or saving for Botox or other surgical procedures in the not-too-distant future. That, or perhaps I should plan on hiding my face by living as a hermit instead of sailing around the globe once I get to that age.

We can’t stop aging, and we certainly shouldn’t hide in the house. The point is that while we don’t need to see happy couples sailing a yacht to inspire saving and investment, does the fear of what you might look like as you age inspire you to do so? It feels disconnected from what is really important to consumers in terms of retirement planning – being realistic about what retirement looks like for you (not on you) and having frank conversations with your advisor, your family and yourself about what that means financially.