Temporal Reframing and Participation in a Savings Program: A Field Experiment

Hal Hershfield, Stephen Shu and Shlomo Benartzi
Marketing Science
January 1, 2019

A growing number of American workers are now freelancers and thus, responsible for their own retirement savings, yet they face psychological hurdles that hamper them from saving enough money for the long term. Although prior theory-derived interventions have been successful in addressing some of these obstacles, encouraging participation in saving programs is a challenging endeavor for policy makers and consumers alike. In a field setting, we test whether framing savings in more or less granular formats (for example, saving daily versus monthly) can encourage continued saving behavior through increasing the take up of a recurring deposit program. Among thousands of new users of a financial technology app, we find that framing deposits in daily amounts as opposed to monthly amounts quadruples the number of consumers who enroll. Furthermore, framing deposits in more granular terms reduced the participation gap between lower- and higher-income consumers: three times as many consumers in the highest rather than lowest income bracket participated in the program when it was framed as a $150 monthly deposit, but this difference in participation was eliminated when deposits were framed as $5 per day.

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