Are Retirement Planning Tools Substitutes or Complements to Financial Capability?

Upjohn Author ORCID Identifier

Publication Date



We conducted a randomized controlled trial to understand how a web-based retirement saving calculator affects workers’ retirement-savings decisions. In both conditions, the calculator projected workers’ retirement income goal. In the treatment condition, it additionally projected retirement income based on defined-contribution savings, prominently displayed the gap between projected goal and actual retirement income, and allowed users to interactively explore how alternative, future contribution choices would affect the gap. The treatment increased average annual retirement contributions by $174 (2.3%). However, effects were larger for those with greater financial knowledge, suggesting this type of tool complements, rather than substitutes for, underlying financial capability.



Issue Date

September 6, 2022


Upjohn project #69115


U.S. Social Security Administration Grant #5-RRC08098400-10, National Bureau of Economic Research, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research

Subject Areas

LABOR MARKET ISSUES; Retirement and pensions




Goda, Gopi Shah, Matthew R. Levy, Colleen Flaherty Manchester, Aaron Sojourner, Joshua Tasoff, and Jiusi Xiao. 2022. "Are Retirement Planning Tools Substitutes or Complements to Financial Capability?"