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Less Is Not More: Information Presentation Complexity and 401(k) Planning Choices

Author

Listed:
  • Cardella, Eric

    () (Texas Tech University)

  • Kalenkoski, Charlene M.

    () (Texas Tech University)

  • Parent, Michael

    () (University of Texas at Austin)

Abstract

This paper presents the results of an experiment that is designed to examine how information presentation and complexity impact retirement-savings behavior. The experiment is performed twice, using both a Qualtrics panel of new employees and a sample of business school students. In this experiment, participants first were provided with either a long or short description of a hypothetical employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. Then they were asked whether they would enroll in the hypothetical plan and, if so, what percentage of their salary they would contribute. If they chose to contribute, they were asked how they would like to allocate their contribution between stocks and bonds. Participants were offered the option to stick with pre-assigned default options such as a 4% contribution and a 50-50 stocks and bonds split. The hypothesis is that providing concise information with helpful recommendations would improve choices over providing lengthy and detailed information. However, controlling for demographic and other factors, this hypothesis was not supported by the data, for either the new employees or the business school students. Thus, the data suggest that simplifying the presentation of retirement-plan information to employees is unlikely to result in vastly improved retirement-planning choices.

Suggested Citation

  • Cardella, Eric & Kalenkoski, Charlene M. & Parent, Michael, 2018. "Less Is Not More: Information Presentation Complexity and 401(k) Planning Choices," IZA Discussion Papers 11538, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11538
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    retirement planning; 401(k); information complexity; nudge; choice architecture;

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G41 - Financial Economics - - Behavioral Finance - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making in Financial Markets
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General

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