Self-Reference Criterion: The concept that can stifle your benefits education and communication.

What it is

Self-reference criterion is what you get when those of us in retirement and financial education explain complex benefit and retirement concepts from our own well-educated perspective. We work closely with plan sponsors and advisors, using a four-step process to restore life – and effectiveness – to benefits education and communication. We don’t dumb things down; your participants deserve more respect than that. Instead, we use science to make your engagement efforts individually relevant.

Who cares?

Over the last decade, we’ve worked with employers and plan sponsors who are deeply concerned that their employees or plan participants won’t have enough to live on in retirement. These few employers and plan sponsors – maybe 25 percent – see retirement plans as part of a competitive benefits package.

And, we’ve encountered employers who offer retirement plans as entry-level stakes for recruitment or retention. They don’t see employee retirement readiness as their responsibility. Retirement plans are considered a necessary expense.

Most of Relational Gravity’s work is with the first 25 percent.

How we help

Using Relational Research, we help plan sponsors and advisors translate their expertise into actionable concepts real plan participants can relate to and act on. This is the opposite of the cookie-cutter method that delivers the same approach to physicians on Monday and municipal workers on Friday.

How these groups understand and respond to retirement and benefits concepts is different. That much is obvious. We help plan sponsors and advisors save expenses and improve measurable results by eliminating guesswork, replacing it with participant-reference criterion.


For more than a decade Jeff Hutson has concentrated on helping defined benefit and defined contribution pension plans make a meaningful and measurable difference to their participants. Using Relational Gravity’s unique approach, we help plan sponsors improve participant engagement while controlling communication expenses.

Yes, we can measure results. And that’s something you should expect from any retirement or benefits education effort.

Learn More: A Relational Gravity solution tailored to you

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