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Reducing the Complexity Costs of 401(k) Participation Through Quick Enrollment(TM)

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  • James Choi
  • David Laibson
  • Brigitte Madrian

Abstract

The complexity of the retirement savings decision may overwhelm employees, encouraging procrastination and reducing 401(k) enrollment rates. We study a low-cost manipulation designed to simplify the 401(k) enrollment process. Employees are given the option to make a Quick Enrollment(TM) election to enroll in their 401(k) plan at a pre-selected contribution rate and asset allocation. By decoupling the participation decision from the savings rate and asset allocation decisions, the Quick Enrollment(TM) mechanism simplifies the savings plan decision process. We find that at one company, Quick Enrollment(TM) tripled 401(k) participation rates among new employees three months after hire. When Quick Enrollment(TM) was offered to previously hired non-participating employees at two firms, participation increased by 10 to 20 percentage points among those employees affected.

Suggested Citation

  • James Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian, 2006. "Reducing the Complexity Costs of 401(k) Participation Through Quick Enrollment(TM)," NBER Working Papers 11979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11979 Note: AG EFG PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "For Better or for Worse: Default Effects and 401(k) Savings Behavior," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 81-126 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Julie Agnew & Lisa R. Szykman, 2004. "Asset Allocation and Information Overload: The Influence of Information Display, Asset Choice and Investor Experience," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2004-15, Center for Retirement Research, revised May 2004.
    3. Gabriel D. Carroll & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2009. "Optimal Defaults and Active Decisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1639-1674.
    4. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    5. Dhar, Ravi & Nowlis, Stephen M, 1999. " The Effect of Time Pressure on Consumer Choice Deferral," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(4), pages 369-384, March.
    6. John T. Gourville & Dilip Soman, 2005. "Overchoice and Assortment Type: When and Why Variety Backfires," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 24(3), pages 382-395, July.
    7. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "Saving or Retirement on the Path of Least Resistance," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000606, UCLA Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gopi Shah Goda & Colleen Flaherty Manchester & Aaron Sojourner, 2012. "What Will My Account Really Be Worth? An Experiment on Exponential Growth Bias and Retirement Saving," NBER Working Papers 17927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 167-195 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell & Vilsa Curto, 2009. "Financial Literacy among the Young: Evidence and Implications for Consumer Policy," NBER Working Papers 15352, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Annamaria Lusardi, 2008. "Financial Literacy: An Essential Tool for Informed Consumer Choice?," NBER Working Papers 14084, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Lusardi, Annamaria, 2007. "Household saving behavior: The role of literacy, information and financial education programs," CFS Working Paper Series 2007/28, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    6. Daniel J. Benjamin & James J. Choi & A. Joshua Strickland, 2010. "Social Identity and Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1913-1928, September.
    7. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2013. "Simplification and saving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 130-145.
    8. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 5.
    9. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2008. "How are preferences revealed?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1787-1794, August.
    10. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2011. "$100 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Investment in 401(k) Plans," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 748-763, August.
    11. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2005. "$100 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Saving in 401(k) Plans," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000649, UCLA Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D0 - Microeconomics - - General
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors

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