The best time to educate a consumer about retirement savings topics is when the consumer is getting ready to make a transaction, according to the National Association of Independent Retirement Plan Advisors.

The best time to educate a consumer about retirement savings topics is when the consumer is getting ready to make a transaction, according to the National Association of Independent Retirement Plan Advisors (NAIRPA).

NAIRPA, an affiliate of the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA), Arlington, Va., has given that advice in a comment letter submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The SEC has asked the public for comments on public and private investor education efforts.

Many policymakers have talked about the need to start financial literacy education as early as possible.

But, when it comes to the specifics of making investment decisions about retirement assets, education tends to be most effective when it relates to the participant’s specific concerns and is available at the time of the transaction, Brian Graff writes on behalf of ASPPA.

When provided at the right time, the right kind of education can be equally effective whether provided by a live human or through electronic means, Graff says.

But Graff also has written in support of some types of general retirement education efforts.

“NAIRPA members have found that some participants engage in behaviors of procrastination and avoidance related to saving for retirement,” Graff says. “This group of investors would benefit from education about the ease of saving for retirement and the importance of starting to save early for retirement.”

NAIRPA members are skeptical about the idea of teaching consumers investment management techniques, Graff says.

“The consensus of NAIRPA members is that teaching investment theory is almost universally ineffective, whereas teaching overall strategies for achieving retirement income adequacy, when paired with the right plan designs, has been demonstrably effective,” Graff says.

About 86% of the plan participants who get targeted education programs end up using professional investment advice rather than making all of the investment decisions themselves, Graff says.

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