Given the worldwide concern that individuals are not saving sufficiently for retirement, many governments are taking action to try and rectify this tendency. A key focus area is implementing policies to dissuade individuals from accessing accumulated retirement funds when changing jobs. While traditional economic theories assume that individuals act rationally and make optimal decisions without outside intervention, current policy interventions support behavioural theories of decision-making where sub-optimal choices occur due to limitations in human decision-making. Therefore, interventions are based on the assumption that individuals act irrationally. Despite these interventions, many individuals still access their funds suggesting that current interventions may not be sufficiently aligned with the factors influencing decision making in this environment.
The main research objective of this study was to test empirically both rational and behavioural factors that could potentially influence retirement preservation decisions, to determine which factors were the best predictors of whether an individual preserved funds when changing jobs. A research instrument was designed using a combination of existing psychometric measures and customised questions to form an analytical survey. This was used to test the factors that predicted the preservation decisions of a sample of 256 academic and non-academic personnel at a tertiary education institution in South Africa.
The study found that behavioural factors play an important role in predicting preservation decisions. In particular, behavioural factors related to bounded rationality, due to the computational complexity of the decision-making environment, emerged as important explanatory variables, indicating that interventions such as decision support and guidance may assist individuals in making optimal decisions.