Multichannel pension communication. An integrated perspective on policies, practices, and literacy demands

People in the Netherlands are hardly aware of their pension situation (MoneyWise, 2012; 2014; 2016; Prast & van Soest, 2014) and tend to have poor financial planning skills when it comes to their retirement (Prast & van Soest, 2016; van Rooij, Lusardi, & Alessie, 2011a). These are matters of great concern, since pension unawareness is associated with overly high financial expectations and serious future income gaps (Alessie, van Rooij, & Lusardi, 2011; The Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets [AFM], 2010; The Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands [SER], 2008). One of the reasons that people fail to act on their pension situation is that they lack motivation to study the information they receive from their pension organizations (Heuts & Klaver, 2011; Visser, Oosterveld, & Kloosterboer, 2012). This disinterest has several potential causes: little confidence in the pension sector, a missing sense of urgency, a lack of knowledge, and feelings of low self-efficacy (Visser et al. 2012). But even if people do decide to study the provided documents, the required information is often unfindable (Lentz & Pander Maat, 2013) or difficult to comprehend: 43% of the working population indicates having trouble understanding pension information (Visser et al., 2012). The last obstacle is that even if pension communication is studied and the relevant information is found and understood, this does not lead to the necessary actions to improve the pension situation (AFM, 2012). Adding to this informational complexity is the constraint that pension communication is subject to regulations issued by the Dutch government, which limits the freedom of pension organizations when designing pension communication.

In this dissertation we will investigate how the design of pension communication is currently realized and how pension communication could be more effective in informing pension consumers. In this research we take into account that effective pension communication does not only mean that people understand the product in itself – they especially have to understand whether they need to adjust their pension situation and how they are able to do that, now and in the future. In the remainder of this introduction chapter, the current pension (communication) situation in the Netherlands will be laid out shortly. This section is followed by a discussion of the research traditions this research is embedded in. The chapter concludes with the aim of this dissertation, an outline of the six remaining chapters, and a final remark.

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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