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  • Writer's pictureBen LeFort

Understanding the Science Behind Saving: Tips for Financial Success

Science experiment.

Are you struggling to save money for retirement? You're not alone. Many people find it difficult to save enough money for their future, especially when faced with immediate financial demands.

While it's important to be mindful of your current expenses, it's also crucial to start saving money for your retirement as early as possible. Fortunately, there's a way to save more without feeling like you're sacrificing your current lifestyle.

This is where Save More Tomorrow™ (SMarT) comes in.

The Save More Tomorrow Program

The SMarT program developed by Richard Thaler and Shlomo Benartzi is a prescriptive savings program that helps you allocate a portion of your future salary increases towards retirement savings. The program is based on principles from psychology and behavioral economics to design an effective savings plan that helps you overcome common obstacles to saving.

Here's how it works:

  1. You commit in advance to allocating a portion of your future salary increases to retirement savings.

  2. Your contribution rate continues to increase on each scheduled raise until the contribution rate reaches a preset maximum.

  3. You can opt out of the plan at any time.

The Benefits of the SMarT Program

The SMarT program has been shown to be effective in increasing savings rates for employees. The first implementation of the SMarT plan took place in a midsize manufacturing company.

Prior to the adoption of the SMarT plan, the company suffered from low participation rates as well as low saving rates. However, after implementing the SMarT program, the company saw a high proportion (78 percent) of those offered the plan join. The vast majority of those enrolled in the SMarT plan (80 percent) remained in it through the fourth pay raise, and the average saving rates for SMarT program participants increased from 3.5 percent to 13.6 percent over the course of 40 months.

The Importance of Behavioral Economics

The SMarT program is based on principles from behavioral economics, which is a field that explores how people make decisions and how they can be influenced to make better choices. Behavioral economics suggests that many people may be making mistakes when it comes to saving for retirement and would welcome aid in making decisions about their savings. Behavioral explanations for this behavior stress bounded rationality and self‐control.

A high proportion of Americans accumulate retirement wealth primarily in three forms: social security, pensions, and home equity. These forms of wealth accumulation do not require much self-control. However, with the recent shift toward defined-contribution (DC) plans, which require employees to actively join and select their own savings rate, savings adequacy may be much lower.

Tips for Saving More

The SMarT program is just one example of how you can use behavioral economics to help increase your savings. Here are some other tips to help you save more:

  • Use automatic enrollment plans: When you first become eligible for a savings plan, you are automatically enrolled unless you explicitly opt out. This can help increase participation rates.

  • Start small: It's important to start saving as early as possible, even if it's just a small amount. Over time, this can add up.

  • Make it automatic: Setting up automatic contributions from your paycheck can help you save without even thinking about it.

  • Increase your contributions over time: As you receive raises or promotions, consider increasing your contributions to your retirement savings plan.

  • Seek financial advice: Consider seeking advice from a financial advisor to help you create a personalized financial plan that is tailored to your needs and goals.

The Science Behind Saving

One of the main reasons that people struggle to save money is that they are not fully aware of how their brains work when it comes to making financial decisions. Behavioral economics is a field that combines psychology and economics to study how people make decisions and how they can be influenced to make better choices. Understanding the science behind saving can help you make more informed decisions about your finances.

One of the main principles of behavioral economics is that people tend to focus more on short-term benefits than long-term gains. This is known as hyperbolic discounting, and it can make it difficult to save money for the future. For example, you may be more likely to spend money on a night out with friends than to put that money into your retirement savings account. To overcome this tendency, it's important to think about your long-term goals and to make saving for retirement a priority.

Another principle of behavioral economics is that people are more likely to stick with a decision if it is the default option. This is why automatic enrollment plans have been shown to be effective in increasing participation rates for retirement savings plans. By making it easy for people to enroll, they are more likely to stick with the plan and save more money over time.


Saving for retirement can be difficult, but it's important to start as early as possible. The SMarT program and other tips based on behavioral economics can help you overcome common obstacles to saving and increase your savings rate over time. By understanding the science behind saving and making informed decisions, you can build a strong financial foundation for your future.


This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered Financial or Legal Advice. Not all information will be accurate. Consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.

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