Wiebke Eberhardt presents at Netspar

Today, Wiebke Eberhardt presented research results on the Retirement Belief Model at the Netspar working group on pension communication in Tilburg (The Netherlands). The joint research with Lisa Brüggen and Thomas Post demonstrates how psychographic information can be used to segment pension plan participants and how pension communication can be adapted to the segments.

Simplifying Pension Information

Presenting pension information in a simple way with short sentences, without difficult terms, and in plain vanilla language improves participants’ understanding of pension plan features. However, we find no effect on participants’ subjective evaluation of the information quality or on their willingness to take action.

A picture says more than 100 words?

Visualizations are a promising pension communication tool for improving participants’ understanding and encouraging planning actions. We examine the impact of different forms of visualizations on the level of pension information understanding, willingness to take action, and on participants’ moods, perceptions of usefulness, and ease of use. Visualizations (as compared to text) are highly appreciated by participants and increase understanding of pension information. But, for participants with low financial literacy and numeracy skills, visualizations reduce willingness to take action.

Future-self visualizations and pension communication

People often cannot identify with their future selves. For that reason, they may not plan ahead and thus save too little. Recently, NYU Professor Hal Hershfield proposed an innovative way to make people more future-oriented: age-processing their pictures so they better visualize themselves at retirement. We adapt this idea in a mass communication context and develop different visualizations of retired people. These visualizations reflect “hoped-for” versus “feared-for” future selves in general as well as in a material and social setting. The advantage of using such visualizations is that they can be used in regular pension communications such as the cover letter of the Uniform Pension Statement (UPO, a Dutch pension information letter required by law) or in general advertisements. We find that visualizations of future selves makes participants more safety-oriented during retirement. The general hoped-for visualization makes participants more willing to consume less today and save more for retirement when compared to a control group.