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Are Participants Ready for Electronic Disclosures?

Though they seem to be somewhat more likely to review information they receive in paper format, a new survey finds that the vast majority of Americans would be fine with getting retirement disclosures electronically.

Six in ten (60%) report reading this general information in paper format selectively or in its entirety, compared with about half (48%) who get this information online, according to a study sponsored by the SPARK Institute. Furthermore, more than half (54%) of those receiving information by paper only say that they would be less likely to read it if it came online. However, more than eight in ten (84%) agree that it is okay for the employer to provide retirement plan information electronically — if they can opt for paper at any time.

Most participants get their official statements by mail today — 49% get it this way only, compared with 37% who receive both mail and online and 14% who receive statements only online. However, the report notes that the number getting statements on paper only is down from 2012, when an AARP study found 62% getting paper only.

Other findings include:

  • Over half (55%) agree that they do not need to receive information by mail since they can always print electronic information out.

  • Over eight in ten (81%) agree that electronic delivery reduces clutter.

  • Close to six in ten agree that when information is sent electronically, it is easier to locate it (58%), they are less likely to lose it (56%), and they are likely to keep documents longer (49%).

  • Over half (53%) agree it would be simpler to have retirement plan information online since account balance and performance information is already available that way.

  • About half (46%) of those who get statements by paper say that they have simply not taken the time to ask for information electronically.
  • A total of 1,000 randomly selected plan participants nationwide were administered a 10-minute telephone survey. Data collection was done by Greenwald & Associates and its affiliate National Research.