Language and messaging

In the UK, the success of auto enrolment means that around 10 million more people are now saving into a workplace pension. The process of automatically enrolling workers, coupled with the use of payroll deduction to make regular contributions, has helped individuals overcome behavioural barriers and get started with saving, rather than putting it off to another day. Inertia has clearly been harnessed for good, but the flipside of its power is that these savers tend to have lower levels of engagement with their pension than if they had made a more active and voluntary choice to start saving.

Today, pension engagement remains a key focus for policymakers and the industry in the UK and beyond. It’s widely recognised that some savers will need to take action and contribute more, because auto enrolment’s default settings may mean they’re not able to afford the lifestyle they want or expect in retirement. Despite this, communications about retirement saving are often still jargon heavy and struggle to cut through. And, although many industry stakeholders talk about the importance of increasing engagement, they do not always focus on the desired outcomes.

About the research

We believe there’s an important role for relevant and motivating communications at a number of points in our financial lives that could increase engagement with retirement saving in a positive way.

Working with our strategic partner Invesco, we wanted to build a better understanding of the existing behaviours of people who have been automatically enrolled, and to explore how those behaviours might be influenced to help them achieve better outcomes. Through in-depth qualitative and quantitative research, focused around a particular communication issue, we aimed to identify language and message framing that better engages, informs and motivates individuals to save for their retirement to drive a defined positive outcome.

We are excited to have outlined together an approach to unlocking the potential of language that combines both our strengths and assets.

  • In November 2020, we published our first report, Beyond the defaults (PDF), which looked at ways to encourage people to contribute more to their workplace pensions, where appropriate. 
  • In October 2021, we shared findings from the second phase of our programme: Small steps to a better future (PDF). Moving forwards on the pensions journey, this research explored ways to encourage people in their late 30s, 40s and early 50s to engage with pension saving and take action that could make a real difference to their retirement income in later life.
  • Gearing up for retirement (PDF), our final report in the series published in November 2022, turns the clock forward once again. It explores whether well-designed messages can help people in their 50s and early 60s to start taking the right steps to a well-planned retirement and avoid making potentially damaging knee-jerk decisions around what to do with their savings.

About our strategic partner (2019 – 2022)

Invesco is an independent investment management firm dedicated to delivering an investment experience that helps people get more out of life. Invesco became a major strategic partner in July 2019 to help shape Nest Insight’s programme of work through sponsorship, the contribution of its deep industry expertise and insights, and by helping the programme to reach a wider audience. For more information, visit

  • Develop a richer understanding of the behaviours of people who have been automatically enrolled and the barriers they face when it comes to engaging with pension saving.
  • Understand the role language can play in helping pension scheme members.
  • Design and test effective language and message framing that better engages, informs and motivates individuals to save and plan for their retirement.
  • Industry expert interviews
  • Qualitative interviews with Nest members
  • Online assessment of pension saver responses to messages using Emotional Response dial technology
  • Qualitative focus group discussions with UK pension savers
  • Large scale survey with UK pension savers to validate and quantify our learnings