Illustration by Josh Cochran
Research from the Boston College Center for Retirement
Research (CRR) indicates that employers may want to ensure their communication
strategies consider the mindset of younger workers, for whom retirement is a
vague and distant event. Materials appealing to their abstract way of thinking
may more effectively persuade them to begin saving or to save more, but they
may also respond to more concrete guidance if a savings milestone is presented
as a short-term goal, such as how much to save each pay period.
The results of CRR’s study showed that the saving intentions
of younger workers (ages 18 to 34) were heavily influenced by the interaction
of the communication frame (abstract versus concrete) with the time frame of
the savings goal (long-term versus short-term). Between the two ads with
abstract framing, young employees were more responsive to the one that proposed
the long-term savings goal. This ad was associated with both a higher intended
likelihood of saving and saving rate.
However, younger employees also responded strongly to the
concrete ad that proposed a short-term savings goal—a biweekly deduction.
Those who saw the abstract ad with the long-term goal
(lifetime savings) reported they intended to save, on average, 17.8% of their
salary—well above the 9.5% saving rate for the mismatched abstract, short-term
The ad pairing concrete framing and a short-term goal (a
biweekly paycheck deduction) was associated with a 20.4% saving rate, compared
with just 14.1% for the concrete, long-term ad.