Have you ever received a letter with the notice “Time sensitive material! Open immediately!” boldly splashed across the outside of the envelope, only to sigh with disappointment with what’s on the inside? While the disappointment of false advertising so often seems to be the case with junk mail, the warning turns out to be true when we examine the behaviors of retirement plan participants who have recently changed jobs.

In 2008, Charlotte, North Carolina-based financial consulting firm Retirement Clearinghouse began collecting data on participants’ distribution decisions for a large hospital services company’s plan, which had more than 230,000 employees and as many as 45,000 participants who changed jobs each year. In every instance, both the date of termination and the date that the participant made their distribution decision to accurately report the elapsed time between those dates were recorded. Data continued to be collected over the ensuing eight years, an accumulation of more than 300,000 individual decisions that offers actionable insight into participant behaviors at the time of a job change.

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