Three economists have come up with hard evidence: Stories really do help consumers understand retirement planning concepts.
The economists tested that idea by showing consumers a written vignette, or a video vignette, and then giving them a quiz.
The consumers who saw the annuity vignettes received an average score of 87% on the annuity quiz. Members of the control group, who received no extra information about annuities, earned an average score of 77%.
For the quiz on Social Security claiming strategies, vignettes increased the average score to 90%, from 76%.
But the vignettes had no clear effect on how likely the people exposed to the vignettes were to want to annuitize their retirement savings, or on when they said they expect to begin collecting Social Security benefits.
Anya Samek conducted the study together with Andre Gray and Arie Kapteyn.
All three researchers are affiliated with the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California.