How to Improve Social Security Education

Retirement Plan Providers' Perspectives

by Lisa Schneider, Mathew Greenwald

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In-depth telephone interviews with defined contribution retirement plan providers, conducted by Mathew Greenwald & Associates in Summer 2011, reveal that most providers are working to educate their plan participants about Social Security and its role in ensuring financial security in retirement. Through website content, mailed materials, one-on-one meetings, and seminars, plan participants receive basic information on how Social Security works and how their benefit amount can vary based on their age at claiming. Most retirement plan providers are not able to give specific, individual advice on when a participant should claim their Social Security retirement benefits, but they consistently supply information to help inform this decision. Respondents express concern that trying to explain the solvency of the Social Security system to participants can be a challenge, and most believe the Social Security Administration could improve its communications to be more user-friendly for consumers. The experts and retirement plan providers interviewed in this study indicate a significant desire for greater collaboration with the Social Security Administration to develop effective communications and deliver useful and credible information to retirement plan participants and Americans as a whole. Some have specific suggestions for how the Social Security Administration can work more closely with defined contribution plan providers to help educate plan participants about the Social Security system and how Social Security benefits may serve as a critical component of their retirement income.

This product is part of a deliverable to the Social Security Administration Financial Literacy Research Consortium. Working papers have been approved for circulation by RAND Labor and Population but have not been formally edited or peer reviewed.

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