I'm always interested in finding new ways to make people do things that don't seem immediately relevant to them, yet may be in their best interests. Saving for the future is a good example.
Last year, BBDO Colenso, NZ, created the ingenious Impulse Saver iPhone app for Westpac. It's a great piece of "choice architecture" which bypasses people's rational decision making in favour of their natural impulses and sense of play. Just as you'd impulse spend, now, at the tap of button, you can save a small amount whenever it takes your fancy. And it probably makes you feel better afterwards than the spending spree.
A very different approach to encourage saving helps young people connect to their future selves, chipping away at their sense of immortality and tapping into a vein of responsibility. A new study from NYU Stern (via PSFK) suggests that young people are encouraged to save by seeing realistic virtual images of themselves at retirement age. In a controlled experiment, those who saw images of themselves when older claimed they'd save a third more than those who did not see images of their future selves. Increasing Saving Behavior Through Age-Progressed Renderings of the Future Self was published in the Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 48.