New Ways to Make People Save: The Dartmouth Project

June 2008

There are several factors that prevent employees from taking advantage of employer-provided pension plans. In this project, a social marketing approach was used to develop a comprehensive, cost-effective plan to improve participation in and contribution to Supplementary Retirement Accounts (SRAs.) By specifically targeting subgroups, the project was able to help identify and overcome key obstacles to savings. Data was gathered which led to the creation of a planning aid, the purpose of which was to enable higher saving rates and to help employees enroll in plans that best matched their needs. The planning aid outlined the steps an employee needed to take to enroll in an SRA; as such, the planning aid was designed to help employees overcome critical obstacles to saving. Compared to a control group that was not exposed to a planning aid, the election rate more than tripled in the 30-day period and doubled in the 60-day period. A second intervention further improved SRA election. Project researchers developed valuable insights that may prove useful in designing future saving programs. The social marketing approach that was employed was atypical compared to previous saving programs but is well-suited to accommodate and adapt to the wide range of saving behaviors that are normally observed among employees. Ultimately, the program used a more individualized approach by motivating employees to overcome barriers to saving. While employees were still required to make the decision to enroll in an SRA, the planning aid complemented outreach efforts well, as it helped employees overcome key barriers to saving.