May 28, 2023

Bucks Blog: Why People Still Want Paper Retirement Statements

Instead of “paper or plastic,” Americans are being asked to weigh the question, “paper or digital?” — at least when it comes to key retirement documents.

A new survey commissioned by AARP finds that most adults — not just older ones — prefer to receive retirement documents on paper. Plus, they’re more likely to read and retain documents provided on paper, the survey found. And they prefer policies that call for delivering retirement information by paper as the default method, with an option to receive it electronically, rather than the reverse.

AARP conducted the survey because of recent initiatives to make electronic delivery the default method for providing retirement documents to plan participants.

The telephone survey included 1,028 adults, 25 and older, who are current or former participants in a retirement plan, like a 401(k). SSRS,  an independent research company, conducted the survey for the AARP in October. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Just thinking of my own reading habits, I’d have to say I prefer to get retirement documents in both formats. I like to have hard copies to read in detail, and it’s easier to get them by mail rather than printing them out at home. But I like to have them electronically too, so I can quickly do a search for any specific information that I might need.

I’m apparently not alone. Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of those surveyed for the AARP said they receive retirement documents in paper format through the mail. Another 27 percent get them both in the mail and online, and 7 percent get them electronically only.

Older respondents, however, were more likely to get paper documents only, while younger adults were more likely to get them both by paper and electronically.

The survey asked all participants to specify which method, paper or electronic, they would pick if forced to choose just one option. Most — three-fourths — chose paper delivery by mail, with 25 percent choosing electronic delivery. (While older participants were more likely to prefer paper, two-thirds of younger participants also preferred paper).

How do you prefer to read your retirement plan documents, on paper or on your computer?

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