Retirement Calculator

A easy-to-use calculator to increase contributions

The challenge

Design a quick and easy to use calculator that results in increased contributions.


Design lead Design exploration UX, UI design Research analysis Prototyping


An ‘awareness and interest’ website, built in Webflow. A hugely successful large scale beta trial and increase in member contributions.


72% of users are not actively engaged with their pension, and 28% of them never review their pension. This is known as the “scheme member engagement” problem in the pension industry. This is well known but widely accepted as an unsolvable problem. (Atlas Master Trust Survey, 2018)

  • It is widely accepted that the majority of UK employees are not saving enough for a financially stable retirement. (Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, Developing Retirement Living Standards, 2019)

  • Increased user engagement with pensions, combined with education, can prompt increased pension contributions. This can lead a better financial outcome in retirement for users, and increased assets under management (money) for the pension providers. 

  • One way to motivate users to save more (increase their pension contributions) is to show them an estimate of their future.

    The challenge was to design a simple and quick to use calculator that resulted in increased contributions. 

UX and design exploration

From the start this project was intended to be used by all members - every user of the Smart Pension member app and all of it’s white-labelled partners’ apps. For this reason the design needed to be extremely simple to use.

I worked with the project stakeholders in several workshops and agreed on these requirements:

  1. Quick to understand and use - users should be able to understand it just by looking at the screen for a few moments.

  2. It should motivate users to consider their contributions (and hopefully increase them, though we couldn’t legally advise it)

I explored many different layouts for the calculator, all following these requirements.

Early wireframing and error states logic

A very early design, before deciding on a fixed footer, and then many variations on the layout. All before concluding that it needed to include the employer’s contribution % as well as the employee’s (the user’s).

UX and design exploration

This user journey map, while detailed, was needlessly complex, for both the users that would experience the journey, and anyone working on the project trying to understand it.

I ran a journey mapping workshop with stakeholders, to both simplify the journey and clarify key points.

After a lot of discussion, as a group we decided that the project actually needed two distinct (but connected) parts - ‘Awareness and interest’ and ‘Illustration and quote’.

The original journey lacked a real ‘Awareness and interest’ phase - it relied on users already knowing enough about this ‘Smart Retire’ product to want to click on a card somewhere in their pension app (that they likely rarely or never opened). As well as within the main retirement planner phase (within the second part of the journey, ‘Illustration and quote’), the users needed information before using our app - before committing to using any product, they need to be educated and sold on it. 

Users needed to choose to use the product, ahead of competitors. The product needed a good, persuasive acquisition funnel. The solution was a simple informational and marketing website, combined with email campaigns for existing Smart users.

First beta trial

After some internal testing (dogfooding), the first version of the calculator went live to a small number of scheme members (around 3,000 users).

This performed extremely well in terms of engagement – 18% of participants signed in and used the calculator (this is extremely high in the pension industry!). It also scored highly on the CSAT score from feedback.

The issue was that very few users increased their contributions.

I (along with the stakeholders) hypothesised that this could be because users saw their estimated retirement income and thought ‘that’s enough’. We needed some guidelines, measures or social proof, so that the majority of users realised they weren’t saving enough.

The solution was to add the PLSA Retirement Living Standards to the calculator interface. These are set of levels for ‘minimum’, ‘moderate’ and ‘comfortable’ retirement, recommended by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association.

Earlier versions of the new RLS calculator, including versions where we considered including the state pension option. It was concluded that this would add too much complication to what was supposed to be a simple, quick calculator.

The design used in the second beta trial, including the Retirement Living Standards warnings.

Retirement Living Standard beta trial

We ran a second beta trial with a different set of users, with this new design including the Retirement Living Standards.

It performed extremely well – 16% of participants signed in and used the calculator, and 23% of those increased their pension contributions! When scaled up this could lead to a huge increase in users savings, and as a result, increase in AUM. 

Design system redesign

During this project, Smart was working on a new design system, and my work on that project included redesign the Retirement Calculator to use the new Smart Platform Design System.

This was one of the features that broke away more from the old established design patterns of most of the member app, and so informed several of the more compact built components in the new design system.

Large scale beta trial

After the success of the small scale beta trial, the Retirement Calculator was launched to just under 300,000 eligible scheme members. It’s seen continued good performance and increased member contributions.

© 2024 Joe Russell, all rights reserved.

© 2024 Joe Russell, all rights reserved.

© 2024 Joe Russell, all rights reserved.