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.

In 2019, we began a multi-year 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.

About our programme partner

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:

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 programme of research included:

  • 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.