Occasional Paper No. 38: Testing retirement communications: Waking up to get wise

As part of the Retirement Income Market Study and the Retirement Outcomes Review, the FCA looked into ways in which we could encourage those approaching retirement to engage with the free government guidance available to them and with their pension provider.

Occasional Paper No. 38 (PDF)

Survey appendix (PDF)


Pension savings and the choices individuals make about those savings can have a large effect on quality of life in retirement and over time defined contribution schemes will become a large part of consumers’ retirement income. In March 2015 the FCA published its final findings of the Retirement Income Market Study. The study found that ‘the current system of provider wake-up packs is not an effective way of providing consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions on their retirement needs’ and that ‘there is too much information, they are difficult to navigate, and are full of jargon.’

The FCA approached firms in the market to take part in research to understand how to make at-retirement communications simpler and clearer, and to measure the impact on consumer decision making. We worked with two pension providers to conduct field trials to examine the extent to which people’s stated and actual behaviour changed as a result of subtle changes to the information they received.

In the first trial we find no significant effects of our intervention on outcomes of interest such as contacting Pension Wise, contacting their pension provider or moving money to a new provider. In the second trial, where we highlight the availability of an appointment with Pension Wise, we find a statistically significant and meaningful increase in people contacting Pension Wise. In parallel, the UK Behavioural Insights Team conducted similar trials and they find a strong effect of reducing providers’ at-retirement communications to a single page.


Paul Adams and Elizabete Ernstsone

Paul Adams works in the Behavioural Economics and Data Science Unit at the FCA

Elizabete Ernstsone works in the Competition and Economics Division at the FCA


Occasional Papers contribute to the work of the FCA by providing rigorous research results and stimulating debate. While they may not necessarily represent the position of the FCA, they are one source of evidence that the FCA may use while discharging its functions and to inform its views. The FCA endeavours to ensure that research outputs are correct, through checks including independent referee reports, but the nature of such research and choice of research methods is a matter for the authors using their expert judgement. To the extent that Occasional Papers contain any errors or omissions, they should be attributed to the individual authors, rather than to the FCA.