Supporting self-employed people to save for retirement

Auto enrolment has addressed participation and coverage issues for many traditionally employed workers. But for those working in self-employment, now a growing demographic around the world, the current auto enrolment mechanism does not usually apply.

We’re leading a programme of research, supported by the Department for Work and Pensions, to understand the low levels of saving seen among self-employed people and to test a range of approaches to encourage and enable retirement saving in a way that fits with their context and meets their needs.

Previous to this, Nest Insight conducted research in 2018 with i2 media research, Britain Thinks and the RSA to bring together existing evidence with new qualitative research into:

  • the long-term saving needs and challenges these self-employed groups might have
  • the different types of self-employed journey
  • the potential touch points at which long-term saving might be encouraged.

About our live research programme

Our research trials are aiming to test whether certain types of intervention can increase the likelihood that self-employed people will save for the long-term. As part of this, we’re testing different forms of messaging and savings options, and exploring behavioural ‘nudges’ that can be introduced into existing systems and online platforms that the self-employed already use to manage their work and finances.

Our research programme involves:

  • A literature review of published evidence on what works in prompting voluntary take-up of pensions and long-term savings.
  • Qualitative exploration and development of a set of messaging concepts designed to encourage pension saving and ideas for mechanisms that could enable saving.
  • Quantitative research to better understand the savings behaviours and interactions of self-employed people with different online platforms and to further test the appetite for different mechanisms for facilitating retirement saving.
  • Messaging trials: to test the effectiveness of different message frames with different self-employed populations, drawn from IPSE’s membership and Nest members.
  • Technology based trials: to test the attractiveness and effectiveness of different ‘set and forget’ mechanisms as well as a range of default product and contribution options, by partnering with platforms and services used by self-employed people.

About our project partners


The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for welfare, pensions and child maintenance policy. As the UK’s biggest public service department it administers the State Pension and a range of working age, disability and ill health benefits to around 20 million claimants and customers. For more information, visit: gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions

Opportunity to collaborate

Our research shows that a high proportion of self-employed people would welcome help to save for later life through the platforms and services they already use for money management – for example 56% of self-employed people liked the idea of automatically diverting a proportion of their income to saving for retirement.

Following on from our initial exploratory research, as part of our ongoing programme of work with the Department for Work and Pensions, we now want to test these ideas in practice. We’re excited to announce that we’ve launched an invitation to tender, inviting partners to work with us on developing and trialling potential solutions.

We’re interested in hearing from providers of platforms as services that self-employed people already use – for example for banking, saving, money management, invoicing, payments, accounting or finding work. There is budget available for development work. Applications for these two tenders can be made through the Bravo platform and must be submitted by Friday 7 February 2020:

Our research reports

Further resources