401K Withdrawal -



Responsive Web | 2020 - 2021

The 401K experience includes many different, complex flows for a participant to utilize and manage their savings. One of the densest someone will encounter is taking out a withdrawal from their retirement savings before retirement. To add to that complexity, they could be taking out money to fund expenses when experiencing a personal hardship.

This case study is an example of how we looked to bring empathy to a transactional flow triggered by a difficult life event.

My role

Senior Product Designer

As one of the most senior product designers, I was tasked with the more complex user flows and interactions. I was responsible for the design ideation, wireframes and dev-ready UI design.

Product team: Domestic & international product designers | copywriters | developers | creative director | product management | client stakeholders

Why someone takes a hardship withdrawal

Generally, one should avoid taking any withdrawals from their 401k savings before retirement due to the high tax implications and negative impact on compound interest. However, a Participant is able to withdraw with lessened tax risks for a personal hardship, including: 

→ Medical expenses
→ Preventing eviction or foreclosure
→ Funeral expenses
→ FEMA disaster
→ Educational expenses
→ Home repair

Critiquing the original

The current experience presented a lot of unnecessary complexities on top of those that are inherent to the flow.

✕- A sterile, transactional feel

✕- Dense, arduous technical text

✕- Many questions in a single page

Step 1 in the original hardship withdrawal flow

How can we bring empathy to this difficult life event?

Empathy led design was crucial for simplifying and easing this experience.
My approach included:

→ Deconstructing the process
→ Contextualizing the complex
→ Orienting the user

Mapping a complex flow

Across the 401k design experience, withdrawals was one of our most complex flows. Because our usership is wide and tax and retirement plan rules vary, there are several permutations a user can encounter depending on their profile and withdrawal circumstances. On top of that, the withdrawal process requires many stages of questioning, data and document input, and descriptions.

In order to make sense of the details user stories, I created this (messy) flow to get a handle on the many requirements and flow possibilities before I started to design.

Scalability across permutations

Scalability was a huge need for the direction of this flow due to the permutations of flow a user could take.

Depending on their employer sponsored 401k plan, Participants are able to take a withdrawal from their savings for a hardship, a non-hardship, or a combo of both. Depending on their reasoning, the flow will vary in the information that is needed from the Participant and what Vanguard needs to communicate to them.

Product design walkthrough

A breakdown of the final design and why we made these decisions.