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Divorce knocks £3,000 off pension income

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Divorcees planning to retire this year can expect their annual retirement income to be £3,000 lower than those who’ve never separated, research reveals.

A study by Prudential shows the expected annual income of someone who has gone through a divorce is £16,300,  compared with £19,400 for a person who has never gone through a marriage break-up. That’s a 16% difference.

Further, one in three people (32%) who’ve been divorced expect to retire with debts, compared with one in five (21%) of those who haven’t been divorced.

The pension and investment firm also found that those who have been divorced are more likely to have retirement incomes below the annual minimum income standard for single pensioners set by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

Around one in five (21%) who have been divorced expect to have incomes lower than the JRF’s benchmark of £186.76 a week, or £9,712 a year, compared with 13% of those who have never been divorced.

While figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the overall divorce rate is falling, the only age group seeing an increase in divorce rates is women aged 55 and over which Prudential said was of concern as women tend to have lower retirement incomes than men.

Clare Moffat, pensions specialist at Prudential, said the financial impact of divorce can be devastating both in the short and longer-term, lasting well into retirement.

“Deciding on living costs and childcare at the point of divorce is difficult enough, but a pension fund is likely to be one of the most complicated assets a couple will have to split in the event of a divorce.

“Retirees who divorced a while ago may want to consider seeking updated professional financial advice on any post-retirement plans they have made, particularly in the light of recent changes to pension legislation. There are also important differences in divorce law between Scotland, and England and Wales. Legal advice in the early stages of separation is therefore crucial.”

Richard Collins, divorce lawyer and partner at Charles Russell Speechlys, said aside from the family home, the pension is often the biggest asset in a divorce case as if pension savings have been built during the marriage, they are commonly split equally.

“Given recent pension changes and the increased flexibility of some pensions, there is a rising trend for divorcing wives to seek a pension rather than taking other assets in place of pensions, which used to be the typical position. Additionally, new pension rules allow some pensions to be passed down one or two generations in a tax-efficient manner. These advantages appear to be attractive to increasing numbers of divorcing wives who are keen to trade other types of assets in a financial settlement to secure pension provision.”

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