Simplifying Pension Information

Long way to go? Simplifying pension plan information improves participants’ understanding but does not change behavior.

Project Title

Simplifying pension information

Summary

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.

Method

In an experiment, participants either read an existing brochure about the basic features of a Dutch pension plan or a simplified version of the same brochure. The simpler version uses shorter sentences and language containing more commonly used words. Both brochures have exactly the same layout and contain the same information. After participants read the information, we first test their knowledge and comprehension. Do they understand how the plan works (e.g., retirement age, investment strategy, choices available)? Then, we ask participants to evaluate how much they like the material they read (e.g., ease of reading, usefulness of information, trustworthiness). Finally, we ask participants how willing they are to take action (e.g., receive more information, search for more information, enroll in the plan).

Results

First, those participants who read the simple brochure scored higher in a test about the plan’s features than participants reading the standard version. Thus, simplifying pension information helps participants understand how a pension plan works as well as particular plan options and choices. Second, we find no difference in the subjective evaluation of the quality of information between the two brochures. Third, no matter which brochure participants read, the intention to take action is low and does not differ based on the brochure read.

Implications

Pension plans are inherently complex as is the information published about them. Simplifying the information provided does help participants gain a better understanding of their pension plan. However, simplifying information is not sufficient to engage new participants. Other methods are required to increase pension plan engagement.

Lead researchers Kees van Haaster, Thomas Post (Maastricht University)

Project partner(s) -

Project status finished

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