This summer, De Telegraaf reported a remarkable statistic: 9 in 10 Dutch people aged between 20 and 40 have never or “only vaguely” heard that the Netherlands is transitioning to a new pension system. Other articles on this topic demonstrate similar findings, reinforcing the fact that young people do not care that much about their pensions. This left me with a lot of questions. Is this a desirable conclusion? What role does communication play in this? And more importantly, what is the role of young communication professionals in this puzzle?
The fact that young people, presumably those in their early 20’s, do not often discuss about their retirement is obviously not the end of the world. Personally, I cannot remember the last time I spoke with my friends about how life will be once we are no longer busy with our careers. However, the issue is that a lack of knowledge and understanding leads to mistrust among young adults. To illustrate, there is a myth that ‘the pension pot will be empty when we retire’; researchers from Motivaction concluded that only 1 in 5 young people actually trust the new pension system. This becomes even more troublesome when you realise that there are two groups that tend to build up little or no pension at all: working professionals under the age of 30 and self-employed adults. In my opinion, this already answers the question of whether or not this is a desirable situation.
However, it is a bit harsh to say that young people are solely responsible for this challenging situation. There is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to communicating about pensions to young people, argues Nikki Trip, the founder of JIIP, a network for young people in the pensions industry. * As a young professional that is active in the sector, Trip has insight into how pension funds communicate with their participants: “For pension funds, it should be equally important to communicate to every target group. If you fail to reach the younger participants with your usual means of communication, that can be quite challenging.”
She brings up email as an example, a tool that pension funds often employ for their communications. Because of GDPR, participants themselves have to provide their email address to the pension fund. It can take a long time before a young person does this. “All those years without sharing their email address means that they miss out on quite a lot of communication. The only other option is by mail, but that does not work well for young people either,” Trip argues. “Communicating via social media can be a solution, but most pension funds do not do so. It is the pension fund’s responsibility to seriously consider these platforms to reach the younger target group.”
In my opinion, this issue presents a unique opportunity for young communication professionals to make an impact. After all, they have a great understanding of the themes and platforms that are relevant for them and their peers. Pension communication is bespoke, meaning that topics that are crucial for one group are probably not of immediate concern for the other. “Pension funds communicate a lot about how much every participant will receive when they retire”, Trip continues. “For older people this is very relevant, but for young people this is still far away. It would be much more interesting and relevant for young people to know more about what pension funds are currently doing for society. It is easy to think that you will only notice a pension fund’s impact on your life when they pay out your pension, but in the meantime, pension funds actually have a lot of social influence – also with money deposited by young people. So you could, for instance, use socially responsible investing (SRI) as a topic to generate interest.”
Pension funds have an important role in society. It is therefore unfortunate that they do not get their points across to young people as well, as it is actually important for them to know what a pension fund does and can do for them in the future. I think this is a challenge that young communication professionals should meet. The ultimate goal is to ensure that time won’t be wasted addressing myths about empty pension pots.
* Nikki Trip (25) is the founder of JIIP, a network for young people in the pensions industry (JIIP). For this article, she was speaking in her personal capacity.
Written by Martijn van Dorp for Young Logeion’s Mini C.