The best of Think Forward Initiative

An overview of the best content
Posted on March 07, 2016

We’ve all been there. From small decisions on impulse purchases to potential life-changing decisions on mortgages and pensions, financial choices are rarely easy. It helps to know exactly what we’re choosing, and why. What are the deeper reasons behind our financial behaviour?

We like to see ourselves as sensible and logical decisionmakers, but study after study shows that our decisions are driven by many other (often subconscious) factors. Why exactly do we make bad financial decisions? Is it because it’s too hard to imagine and consider our future needs over our current needs? Does the abundance of choice help us or hinder us?

That’s why we started the Think Forward Initiative: to gain a deeper understanding of the behaviour behind financial decision-making; and then harness those insights to help people make financial decisions that are better for them, and ultimately better for society. This booklet summarises some of the challenges we’re facing.

Smart, proactive decisions should make sure we are better capitalised in the future. In other words, that we will have more cash and less debt. Sensible financial planning is more crucial than ever as governments across Europe scale back assistance in education, healthcare and pensions. Faced with new and complex financial responsibilities, many people are left overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn for help. This makes it all the more important to understand the hidden motivators of financial behaviour—exploring behavioural and sociological factors that hinder smart financial decision-making is an essential step towards greater financial empowerment.

ING, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, EMC and Microsoft are taking up this challenge.

Think Forward Summit for better financial decisions



Everyone wants to grow old, but nobody wants to be old. Let alone that we would like to see a picture of ourselves as an elderly person. And that's really a shame, according to a survey by researcher Hal Hershfield of New York University. It shows that when we know what we look like in old age, we are more willing to save money. Following the investigation eZonomics wrote an article about the phenomenon of so called ‘empathy gaps'.

Read the full article here.

eZonomics Story


After dinner, a couple gets the bill for the meal and pay for it by swiping their credit cards. They don’t give much thought to how much they spent – at least not until the statement arrives weeks later. Another time, they get the bill and thumb through their wallets to lay own printed cash to pay.

Read the full article here on eZonomics.

eZonomics Story


I’ll do what they’re doing

Overconfidence, loss aversion and other behavioural biases can influence many aspects of investing, including the timing of buying and selling - and what we actually decide to invest in. Herd behaviour can be a powerful force, as can the influence of fresh information in the availability bias.

Read the 8 steps here.

Blog – Hans Timmerman (EMC)


Leaving the monthly chores of your personal financial management to a digital assistant, how appealing is that to you? Hans Timmerman, CTO of EMC Netherlands very much likes the idea of having a personal banker at his fingertips. Even if that means entrusting some of his financial details to his banking partner.

Read the full blog here.

Blog – Hans Timmerman (EMC)


Have you ever tried planning a holiday which includes three generations: you, your children and your parents? How difficult was it to plan that trip for people who are in different phases of their lives and who have, therefore, a different view on what an ideal vacation is? You probably discovered, the hard way, that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ vacation for a family. Well, these generational differences also apply to the way people manage their household budget and to the way they are willing to replace human interaction with their banking partner by online activities.

Read the full blog here.

eZonomics Story

Six ways “doing nothing” can harm finances

In some circumstances inertia – that force that makes us resist change or be prone to do nothing – can work in our favour. But inertia is a double-edged sword. It can be used as an excuse to do nothing when action is required.

Read the full article here.

Story (by Mark Cliffe)


Individual consumers are typically ignored by economists in the banking industry. They concentrate instead on macro-economic forecasting. Looking at national and international economic developments, bank economists give generic advice on issues such as interest rates and exchange rates. The goal is to help clients make better financial decisions. To the extent that their advice is tailored to individual needs, the focus is largely on corporate and institutional clients. Only a sub-set of retail clients with substantial investments typically receive their direct support.

Read the full article here.



Nearly a third of young people in Europe feel their finances are in a poor condition. Two thirds of people in Europe feel young people have to make more financial decisions than the older generations did when they were young. Some 75% of people across Europe agree it is more important for young people today to learn how to manage money.

Take a look at the survey here.