Using social norms to activate pension plan members: insights from practice

Motivating pension plan participants to delve into their pensions and take action in a time-ly manner is a challenge for many pension funds and financial service providers. Referen-cing social norms can be a very effective way of stimulating the desired behavior. This can be done quite subtly and with very little investment: a particular word or image in a letter or chart can do wonders for improving the effectiveness of pension communications. It is, however, a delicate business. If the wrong expression is chosen, it can quickly backfire.

Key Takeaways for the Industry

  • Social norm interventions can be very valuable in pension communications and are most effective when the tips outlined above are applied.
  • Subtle differences can potentially have very negative effects. It is advisable to first test the social norms on a small group.
  • Use actual existing social norms, do not embellish reality.

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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