People ‘copy’ colleagues’ superannuation investment choices

People tend to ‘copy’ their colleagues’ superannuation investment strategies, with gender balance within the workplace impacting women’s decisions, according to Monash Business School.

The Monash study, which was based on data on 28,031 members provided by Mercer, found that, when people do actively engage with their superannuation investment strategy, it would likely be influenced by conversations or perceptions about what others in their workplace do.

Dr Carly Moulang, of the Monash Department of Accounting, said that utilising colleagues’ experience and knowledge in making super choices showed the role identity economics played in financial decisions.

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“Observing others and making social comparisons may help alleviate the uncertainty individuals experience when making complex decisions such as those related to superannuation investment choices,” she said.

Moulang said that this gave some strong indications to super trustees on how improving financial literacy regarding retirement and investments in the workplace could have a stronger flow-on effect than just on an individual basis.

Realising that the workplace plays a strong role in members’ super decisions also “may have important implications for the ways that superannuation trustees communicate and educate their members when it comes to taking charge of their superannuation,” Monash said.

The study also found that women were more likely to be active in making superannuation decisions when in female-dominated workplaces, but reduced engagement with super when part of a female minority.

Moulang said that employers needed to better understand how gender balance could impact employees’ engagement with their superannuation investments strategy.

“If women are in a male-dominated workplace they may need more assistance and engagement to help them make informed decisions as they are not necessarily relying on their peers in those situations,” she said.

Moulang caveated the research by saying that, although an association between the likelihood of individuals making investment strategy changes and their peers’ behaviour had been observed, that did not mean that peer effect was necessarily the cause.

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