Life Events and Participant Engagement in Pension Plans

26 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2017 Last revised: 16 Sep 2018

See all articles by Matthew Blakstad

Matthew Blakstad

NEST Corporation

Elisabeth Brüggen

Maastricht University

Thomas Post

Maastricht University - School of Business and Economics - Department of Finance; Netspar

Date Written: September 5, 2018


We study the use of life events (e.g., getting married, starting a new job) for effective pension communication. Pension plan participants are often not open to pension communication, nor do they engage in pension planning. Overcoming this lack of engagement is important: participants should form realistic expectations about their retirement finances, discover pension gaps early enough to be able to take appropriate action, and experience less negative emotions and retirement anxiety in case of unwarranted pessimistic expectations. Sending pension-related information when important life events take place is often suggested to enhance the effectiveness of communication. Life events may represent teachable moments and thus lead to more openness to pension communication and planning. In this paper, we first review the literature on life events as teachable moments. Second, we provide an overview of life events that are especially suited to increase engagement. Third, we present empirical evidence on life events and participant engagement. Finally, we derive implications for theory as well as practice. Overall, we find that in theory life events appear to be good points to improve communications. The evidence from in-depth interviews with experts and pension plan participants, as well as survey data from participants, shows mixed results. It seems that several major challenges need to be addressed for successfully using of life events.

Keywords: Life Events, Teachable Moments, Pension Engagement, Pension Communication

JEL Classification: D14, D83, D91

Suggested Citation

Blakstad, Matthew and Brüggen, Elisabeth and Post, Thomas, Life Events and Participant Engagement in Pension Plans (September 5, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Blakstad

NEST Corporation ( email )

201-211 Borough High Street
London, SE1 1JA
United Kingdom

Elisabeth Brüggen

Maastricht University ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, 6200MD

Thomas Post (Contact Author)

Maastricht University - School of Business and Economics - Department of Finance ( email )

Tongersestraat 53
Maastricht, 6200 MD
+31 43 38 83899 (Phone)
+31 43 38 84875 (Fax)


Netspar ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE


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