Evaluating Web-Based Savings Interventions: A Preliminary Assessment

27 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2014

See all articles by Wei-Yin Hu

Wei-Yin Hu

Financial Engines, Inc.

Olivia S. Mitchell

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School; University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School, Pension Research Council; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Cynthia A. Pagliaro

Vanguard Group, Inc.

Stephen P. Utkus

University of Pennsylvania; Center for Financial Markets and Policy, Georgetown University

Date Written: October 1, 2013

Abstract

There is reason to believe that technological approaches can help promote voluntary saving in 401(k) retirement accounts. Working with Vanguard, a leading 401(k) plan administrator, we are evaluating the impact of introducing innovations to websites made available to retirement plan participants. The first innovation is a “Boost Your Saving” dial added to several plan homepages immediately after participants log on. The second innovation is a red/yellow/green “Traffic Signal” that can help people evaluate how well they are prepared for retirement. Our goal is to examine contribution and portfolio allocation patterns in the cross-section and also compare pre/post outcomes. The present report provides a preliminary evaluation of the impact on 401(k) plan saving decisions of the web-based savings dial, designed to increase the salience of retirement saving. In what follows, we outline the innovation and some preliminary results. We show that including the savings dial on participants’ webpages did boost plan contribution rates. Nevertheless the effect appears to have dissipated after several months, perhaps due to the skewed distribution of participant web logons or to exogenous tax law changes occurring during our evaluation period. We are continuing to evaluate the experiment over time to measure its long-term effects.

Keywords: saving, retirement planning, 401(k) plans

Suggested Citation

Hu, Wei-Yin and Mitchell, Olivia S. and Pagliaro, Cynthia A. and Utkus, Stephen P., Evaluating Web-Based Savings Interventions: A Preliminary Assessment (October 1, 2013). Michigan Retirement Research Center Research Paper No. 2013-299, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2376858 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2376858

Wei-Yin Hu

Financial Engines, Inc. ( email )

1050 Enterprise Way, 3rd Floor
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
United States

Olivia S. Mitchell (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School, Pension Research Council ( email )

3302 Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall
3620 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6302
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Cynthia A. Pagliaro

Vanguard Group, Inc. ( email )

100 Vanguard Boulevard, J24
Malvern, PA 19355
United States

Stephen P. Utkus

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

Center for Financial Markets and Policy, Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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