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Once you know what's stopping your employees from enrolling in savings plans, you can create materials tailored to addressing their questions and concerns.

When it comes to overcoming barriers to enrollments, knowing what you're up against is half the battle. The other half is creating solutions that resolve those barriers. NEFE research tested three elements, all relatively easy to produce, which yielded tremendous impact on enrollments.

Proven Materials

NEFE researchers saw dramatic increases in savings plan sign-ups when they made these three resources part of the enrollment process:

"Yes to Saving" Flyer
This one-sheet insert offers simple, positive solutions and answers to each of the common concerns the researchers learned about in listening activities. This serves as a template for addressing the specific barriers you discover.

Resource: "Yes to Saving" flyer

Enrollment Guide
This document breaks the enrollment process into small, clear steps, telling employees how to prepare for each step and prompting them to set dates and times for each step.

In addition to providing easy-to-understand directions for enrolling in your organization's savings plan, this document addresses two common issues: 1) feeling overwhelmed by the process, and 2) lack of self-discipline: a concrete plan helps people overcome procrastination.

Since enrollment processes vary widely, we provide the Enrollment Guide as a Microsoft Word document, making it easier for you to adapt it to fit your organization.

Resource: Enrollment Guide template

"People Like Me" Videos
These videos address specific concerns through personal interviews and testimonials. Four people from different segments of targeted employee populations talk about the retirement they hope for, why they save and how they handle savings challenges and concerns.

The people are not actors and the videos are not scripted, so while they don't capture the range of possible diversity among employees, they resonate with sincerity and real issues viewers identify with.
Resource: Download or share our videos or see video production tips here.

TLC Timeline

  • Weeks 25-30: Create flyer to address barriers
  • Weeks 31-36: Create enrollment plan & guide
  • Weeks 37-44: Create "people like me" videos

Remember: In the TLC approach, there is no "right" or "wrong" resource - you should use whatever you feel best fits with your environment and process. Just be sure that what you create directly addresses the specific barriers you have identified for your employees. As you repeat the TLC process with your employees, you will begin to see which resources work better than others.

Principles at Work

Focus on the Positive
Think about how pharmaceuticals are marketed in TV commercials. They don't show you how bad life will be if you don't take a pill—they show you how great life is if you do.

Commercial marketers know that people tend to avoid messages that make them feel fear and worry. Even when it's not in our best interest, we much prefer to ignore danger if someone gives us something positive to focus on instead.

Social marketing focuses on positive outcomes as a way to motivate change. In our videos, for example, we ask people to talk about their ideal retirement, which cues viewers to think about their own hopes and goals.

By focusing on positive outcomes in this way, you help people find the motivators that can help them move past barriers and towards the lives they want.

Quick & Easy TLC

  • Simply use the flyer as is: it addresses common concerns among targets who typically under-save.
  • Focus on creating and/or providing the materials found to be most effective in NEFE's research.

Advanced TLC

Creativity: Get creative with your materials, as well as how and where you present them to employees. You could post a video on YouTube answering 10 questions about retirement savings or print a full-color glossy brochure that explains the enrollment process in detail.

Feedback and Assessment: Acknowledging that there always is room for improvement and recognizing the value of "listening" in a social marketing approach, you can gather feedback from your employees via a survey (developed by the researchers) to help you assess the effectiveness of the materials you used.

Also, while increasing savings plan enrollments is the primary target of this initiative the TLC approach ideally also will help people become more confident and empowered with respect to managing their finances and adequately preparing for retirement.

To assess impact in those dimensions, the feedback survey includes seven questions that assess feelings and attitudes related to savings, retirement and the future.

Resource: Materials for feedback survey.

NEFE Research

Materials created in NEFE's research were designed to overcome specific barriers expressed by employees in the listening phase.

Issue:  "It's all so overwhelming"
Materials Created to Address the Issue: An enrollment guide that breaks the process into small, clear steps and how to prepares for each. 

Issue: "I just don't make enough"
Materials Created to Address the Issue: A flyer showing how low minimum contributions can be plus videos of real employees talking about how and why they "find" a little extra money for their plan.

Issue: "I'll get to it someday"
Materials Created to Address the Issue: An enrollment guide that prompts employees to define dates, times and places to complete each step from start to finish.

Issue: "Those plans aren't for people like me"
Materials Created to Address the Issue: Videos showing real, average employees talking about their savings plans.

Demonstrated Results The materials used in this research effectively increased SRA enrollments as compared to control groups.

Enrollment Guide: Election rate more than tripled in the 30-day period and doubled in the 60-day period.

Enrollment Guide + Videos: 50% increase in election behavior in the 30-day period and 26.6% after 60 days.

Tips for Creating Effective Materials

  • Break up text with illustrations and photos. For images of people, choose photos that reflect your target audience.
  • Make materials that people can slip into a folder or purse—we found employees preferred a folded (and thus smaller) information sheet versus a flat sheet of the same size paper.
  • Use simple, friendly language.
  • Break long processes into smaller steps, but not so many steps that it feels overwhelming (seven or less is ideal).
  • Focus on the rewards of savings plans rather than negative consequences of not saving.

You likely will find that when it comes to creating effective materials, you won't need to start from scratch every time. Well-done videos can be compelling for years. You may find that the same "barriers" are cited by your employees year after year and that your flyer addressing those barriers needs only minor edits from time to time.

Overcoming Procrastination

In NEFE's research, self-discipline was a significant barrier to savings; people would rather delay action to some undefined future point in time ("someday") rather than start saving now.

Research shows that when people define the specifics of an action or decision, they are more likely to follow through on their intentions. We created a worksheet employees can use to create their own personal step-by-step action plan.

Resource: Enrollment Guide Worksheet

If creating your own, here are some guidelines. Remember, the more you help make their plans concrete, the better!

Make a "fuzzy" goal specific: For example, if employees enroll online on their own time, your planning sheet might prompt them to write in a specific date, time and place to do their enrollment.

Plan for every step: If employees need to do anything to prepare, such as decide on a contribution amount or gather paperwork, you also might prompt them to write in a time and place for each activity.

Define commitments: Show exactly how much time each step should take so employees know how much time to block.

Video 101

Employee Testimonial videos are available to download and use as-is in your program. You also will find production tips and interview prompts in the Video Production Guide to create your own if you prefer.

If you don't have video production experience, consider working with an advertising agency or media production company, or contact your local university to explore a win-win arrangement that leverages student talent.

NEXT: "Saving for Retirement Videos"