Education and Advice – How Pre-Retirees/Retirees Access Information

With the responsibility for retirement income shifting from employers to individuals, there has been an increased emphasis on educating workers to take control of their retirement finances. Identifying which resources individuals are likely to use and what educational/advisory methods are likely to stimulate appropriate action are important first steps in changing retirement planning behavior.

Sources of retirement information
Most pre-retirees and retirees do not get their information from professionals. The reported preference for methods of consuming retirement information is incongruent with actual individuals’ experiences. Surveys of methods used generally do not account for use of the internet as a resource.

Reported Preferences:

  • Respondents were most likely to say they would make use of short retirement workshops during the workday (48%) and face-to-face sessions (47%), and least like to use online resources (18%) and phone counseling (14%). (Willett, 2008)

Reported Experiences:

  • The broad population gets retirement information most often from financial planners/brokers (28%, including insurance agents and other professionals), magazines/newspapers (27%), “calling around” (25%), relatives/friends (21%), materials in the mail (11%), accountants/lawyers (10%). (Lusardi, 2003)
  • Less than half of “middle-income” Americans age 55-75 work with a professional advisor to prepare for retirement. (CSR, 2011a)
  • Of those without a professional advisor, the most common source of information for middle-income Americans is the internet (50%), followed by family/friends (38%), membership associations (35%) and newspapers/ magazines (34%). Less than 1 in 4 get their information from their employer. Insurance agents (13%), television (13%) and financial planners (7%) are the least frequent sources of retirement information. (CSR, 2011a)

Moving people to action


  • Americans’ lack of financial knowledge has been repeatedly confirmed in many studies showing that well over half of the population fails to correctly answer relatively simple financial questions. (Bernheim, 1994, 2003, Hilgert and Hogarth, 2002, Lusardi and Mitchell, 2006)
  • More recent studies have linked financial literacy to retirement planning and that retirement planning is a “powerful predictor of wealth accumulation; those who plan have more than double the wealth than those who have done no retirement planning.” (Lusardi and Mitchell, 2009)
  • “[F]inancial education in the workplace can exert a strong influence on personal financial decisions.” (Bayer, Bernheim, Scholz, 2008)


  • 19% of large U.S. employers used automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans as of 2005 (up from 7% in 1999). (Hewitt Associates, 2009)
  • The likelihood of having automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans was much higher in large (24%) than in small firms (1%) as of 2005. (Plan Sponsor Council of America, 2005)


  • Though most retirees will need “something more than leisure activities to be truly happy,” less than 1 in 5 pre- retirees have planned for activities in retirement that will allow them to remain challenged and engaged. (Willett, 2008)