Promoting Public Retirement Savings Accounts during Tax Filing: Evidence from a Field Experiment

43 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2020

See all articles by Stephen Roll

Stephen Roll

Washington University in St. Louis

Michal Grinstein-Weiss

Washington University in St. Louis - George Warren Brown School of Social Work

Olga Kondratjeva

Washington University in St. Louis

Sam Bufe

Washington University in St. Louis

Date Written: June 4, 2020

Abstract

Many U.S. households — especially those with low- to moderate-incomes (LMI) — struggle to save for retirement. To address this issue, the Department of the Treasury launched myRA, a no-fee retirement account designed primarily to help people who lacked access to employer-sponsored plans build retirement savings. In this paper, we report findings from two myRA-focused field experiments, both of which were administered to well over 100,000 LMI online tax filers before and during the 2016 tax season. The first experiment involved sending one of three different myRA-focused email messages to tax filers immediately prior to tax season, and the second experiment involved incorporating myRA-focused messages and choice architecture directly into an online tax filing platform. Messages were chosen to address different barriers to retirement savings LMI households may face. We find that, though the general level of interest in myRA was very low in this population, interest and enrollment in myRA depends heavily on the way in which the benefits of the accounts are framed. Results from both experiments indicate that messages emphasizing the possibility of receiving a larger refund in the future were the most effective at increasing interest in myRA, while messages focused around the simplicity and ease of use of the accounts were less effective. We also conduct several sub-sample analyses to investigate the extent to which these effects differed by key household characteristics.

Keywords: Retirement, Behavioral Economics, Tax Filing, myRA, Tax Refund, Savings, Field Experiment

JEL Classification: D10, D14, I38

Suggested Citation

Roll, Stephen and Grinstein-Weiss, Michal and Kondratjeva, Olga and Bufe, Sam, Promoting Public Retirement Savings Accounts during Tax Filing: Evidence from a Field Experiment (June 4, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3619113 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3619113

Stephen Roll (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1208
Saint Louis, MO MO 63130-4899
United States

Michal Grinstein-Weiss

Washington University in St. Louis - George Warren Brown School of Social Work ( email )

St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

Olga Kondratjeva

Washington University in St. Louis

Sam Bufe

Washington University in St. Louis ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1208
Saint Louis, MO MO 63130-4899
United States
314-600-8231 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://socialpolicyinstitute.wustl.edu/people/sam-bufe/

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