They say there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t.
What this little joke reveals is a truth that has helped practitioners of the psychological and philosophical arts for centuries. It’s called the dichotomy test. I’ve actually used it successfully to help people discover the meaning of their life, but I’ll leave that and my uncanny ability to interpret dreams for another time. This is about getting 401(k) investors to do the right thing.
The financial world is replete with dichotomies. For example, there’s bulls and bears; fear and greed; and, stocks and bonds. We all know (or should know) the most important thing a 401(k) investor can do to increase the odds of living a happy retirement: save more. Yet we repeatedly see employees not acting in their own best interests. How do we motivate these folks to save more?
(To participate in this test, first read “7 Simple Saving Secrets Every 401k Investor Should Know” and then read “The Ten ‘Don’t’s of 401k Investing.” You can wait to read them until you’re done with this article.)
For now, consider this story.
When I was in fifth grade, our teacher often would let us go outside and play kickball if we got our work done early. Sometimes, in the anticipation of the event, a classmate would ask, a bit prematurely, “Are you going to let us go out and play kickball?”