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Retiring in Reality or Virtual Reality?

The 1999 science fiction film The Matrix portrayed a simulated reality that threatened humanity. But today’s futurists foresee a different — and benevolent — virtual reality that in ten years could be as ingrained as mobile communications are now.

It all makes me wonder about virtual reality’s application to retirement.

Although definitions of virtual reality (VR) vary, one is that it seeks to produce a realistic and immersive simulation of a three-dimensional environment, which can include senses such as hearing and touch. The most common way to produce this effect is through a headset that covers the eyes and ears. Today’s headsets are a bit clunky, but design innovations are rapidly making them more stylistically pleasing and subtle.

How could a professional services company use this technology to deliver value to their customers? One example is Qantas Airways, in Australia. The Qantas VR app lets customers experience the view from a jet’s cockpit or scuba diving through a coral reef.

Canada-based Cirque du Soleil has experimented with VR in its shows, bringing viewers “on stage” to add a dimension of immersive fantasy to its brand.

The opportunities extend beyond “edu-tainment.” Hospitals are testing VR headsets as a way to battle the depression that can occur with confinement to a stark hospital room. They’re also using VR to turn the chore of rehabilitation into an exploration of an exciting destination.

Could this technology help investors save more for retirement? Perhaps investors could simulate their retirement life using a VR headset. This future self could appear more real to our current self, helping correct a recognized disconnect in behavioural economics.

And what about how we view portfolios? Instead of looking at tables and graphs, would we instead see virtual piles of money that we could physically place in goal containers? Organizing our finances could become as visual as organizing our closets. Imagine financial advisors becoming like professional organizers, virtually meeting us in that closet, providing guidance and coaching us on our strategy.

Seem far-fetched? Time will tell. I can’t help but believe that a benevolent retirement Matrix is within our not-too-distant future.

Discipline is what it takes to block out the noise, commitment is what it takes to walk the path to financial success and patience is what it takes to reach the goal.

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