Intention and action in retirement preparation

Many people delay their preparation for retirement. Policy-makers often attempt to motivate people to take timely action by increasing the perceived importance of retirement saving, yet the effectiveness of such strategies can be doubted. We examined why a strategy of emphasizing importance may be ineffective by distinguishing between intention to prepare for retirement and action in actually taking steps toward preparation. Two surveys (n1 = 1171; n2 = 832) showed that importance and difficulty were both predictive of people’s intentions to prepare for retirement, but that difficulty was a much stronger predictor of people’s actual actions. Using data from an additional survey (n3 = 986), a series of follow-up tests provided further evidence that difficulty of retirement preparation is a stronger predictor of inaction than importance of retirement saving. These findings help explain why policies aimed at simplifying retirement preparation (e.g., automatic enrollment) have been more successful than policies aimed at increasing the importance of retirement saving (e.g., tax advantages).

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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