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Flicking the Switch: Simplifying Disclosures to Improve Retirement Plan Choices

Cepar - Retirement Decisions

Susan Thorp, Hazel Bateman, Isabella Dobrescu, Ben R. Newell, and Andreas Ortmann

Simplified disclosures can make comparisons between complex financial products easier, and increase consumer expertise. We use incentivized experiments to investigate whether and to what extent simpler information on fees and investment returns assists retirement plan members to make competent choices.We find that members switch quickly from a high-fee plan to the low-fee alternative when fees are shown in nominal dollars. Showing fees as percentages, however, significantly slows down their transition to a low-fee plan. Complex returns information makes it hard for members to recognize and react to relatively poor investment performance, while simplified information reduces losses considerably.