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Paper by Choice: People of all ages prefer to receive retirement plan information on paper

The financial services industry has recently intensified its lobbying of Congress and the Administration to allow retirement plans to send out all legally required retirement plan documents electronically, unless the participant asks for paper.  AARP commissioned a national survey in October 2012 to determine how retirement plan participants prefer to receive information regarding their retirement plans -- on paper in the mail versus electronically by email.

Overall, receipt of plan information by paper via the U.S. mail is far more common than by electronic means.  Further, respondents also indicate an overwhelming preference for receiving these documents in paper format.  This preference for paper format applies to respondents of all ages.

Key Findings

  • More than six in ten (62%) respondents currently receive their retirement plan documents in paper format only.  An additional 27 percent receive them both on paper and electronically.  Only 7 percent receive these documents electronically only. 
  • If forced to choose only one method for receiving retirement plan documents, three-quarters (75%) of all respondents ages 25+ prefer paper over online communications.
  • Approximately seven in ten respondents say they would be more likely to read (70%) and save (73%) retirement plan documents if they were delivered on paper versus online.
  • Respondents were asked about which method (paper vs. online) should be the default for sending retirement plan information.  The overwhelming majority – nearly three-fourths (74%) -- say that retirement plans should be required to send out all retirement information in paper form but allow individuals to actively request email communications instead.

The survey was conducted by Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) using its telephone omnibus survey service.  Interviews were conducted from October 10 – October 21, 2012 and yielded 1,028 adults ages 25 and older who were current or former participants of 401(k) or pension retirement plans.   For more information about the survey, please contact Rebecca Perron of AARP's Research and Strategic Analysis Department at  Inquiries from the media should be directed to AARP's Media Relations Department at (202) 434-2560.