From insight to empowerment

First summit project outcomes and practical solutions
Posted on March 27, 2017

How can we empower people to make better financial decisions? We started the Think Forward Initiative with a range of experts and research because we want to improve people’s lives by helping them make better financial decisions.

We want to look beyond financial education towards the deeper reasons behind our financial behaviour. Although we like to see ourselves as sensible and logical decision-makers, studies continue to show that our decisions are driven by many other (often subconscious) factors.

The Think Forward Initiative is where research meets development. Over 70 experts representing governments, academics, consumers, and the financial and technology sectors pool their skills and talents, all with the goal to help people become more financially empowered.

And we’ve accomplished a lot since the first Think Forward Summit in February 2016. Back then we narrowed down three areas to focus on: savings, investment and retirement; budgeting, spending and borrowing; and financial literacy. Over the following year, we made great progress over a total of five projects that were defined, each tackling something important.

Dan Ariely for the Think Forward Initiative

Think Forward Initiative 2016 Compilation


At the first Think Forward Summit last year, participants defined three areas where people experience challenges in their financial decision-making. These challenges gave birth to five projects, which participants were busy working on throughout the past year.

Here’s an overview of what each project researched and a description of the practical solution being developed based on that research.

“Savings, investment and retirement”


By Dimitris Mavridis and Stefan van Woelderen

Do you find it hard to think about your future and plan for it? Where do you see yourself in 10, 20, 30 years? You are not alone. A 2016 survey commissioned by ING showed that more than half of all people in Europe and elsewhere do not set clear financial goals. It is safe to say that many who do, don’t stick to them.

The project, in three stages, is called ‘Future Self’. The practical solution the team develops will be founded on the insights that come from the research part of the project. Conversely, the data retrieved from the practical solution could benefit future research.

View the entire project here


By Marieke Blom and Nick Watkins

We know that people like to behave as others do. Social norms have a strong influence on us. So an often-used nudge is a bit of ‘peer pressure’ meant to induce ‘desirable’ herd behaviour. By informing individuals how the majority behaves or how one should behave from a societal point of view, many change their behaviour.

So this is our question: How can we encourage people to save more? The savings working group of the TFI is taking on this challenge.

View the entire project here

“Budgeting, spending and borrowing”


By Kristin Glass and Rich Colbaugh

Have you ever borrowed money to buy something and later regretted it? Perhaps you even wondered if you had temporarily lost your mind? If so, you’re not alone, at least judging by recent data on credit card debt, loan defaults and home foreclosures. Fortunately, help may be on the way.

We’re leading a research project with our predictive analytics start-up Periander, aimed at helping people anticipate and avoid making poor borrowing decisions.

View the entire project here


By Fred van Raaij and Lei Pan

Imagine that you and your partner want to buy a new house or work less hours. How many documents and numbers scattered on different websites or apps would you need to find to know if you can still go on a long holiday trip?

Given that households are where most financial decisions are made, the research looks into the differences in the roles husbands and wives play in the decisionmaking process.

View the entire project here

“Financial Literacy”


By Nathalie Spencer

If you think about the personal finance situation in Europe, the image conjured up is perhaps more stormy seas than calm lake. Sixty percent of the people we surveyed across Europe have said that they worry about their financial position. Nearly three in 10 don’t have any savings at all. And 10 percent of people who have personal debt don’t even know how much they owe. What can be done to help the millions across Europe who are struggling to keep their heads above water.

View the entire project here