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Divorced women lose out on pension wealth

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Written by: Danielle Levy
07/01/2019
Women continue to lose out when it comes to sharing pension wealth after a divorce, research from insurer Royal London has shown.

The insurer found the average married couple has three times the pension wealth of the average divorced woman, suggesting that women who are missing out after divorcing.

While an over-50s married couple’s pension wealth totalled £454,000 on average, the pension wealth of a  divorced woman of the same age stands at £131,000.

The findings are surprising because major changes to legislation were introduced in the early 2000s which were designed to make it easier for couples to share pension rights. However, Royal London’s research shows that divorced women continue to lag behind their married counterparts when it comes to pension and property wealth.

In light of this, Royal London is urging women who are going through a divorce to recognise the value of pension wealth and to take expert financial advice so they don’t become ‘pensions’ poor relations’.

Divorce month strikes

The warning comes as January gets off to a start. Nicknamed ‘Divorce Month’, the new year often brings with it the decision to file for divorce amongst married couples. For example, relationship charity Relate typically reports a 24% rise in inquiries from those with relationship worries during January.

The research, which is based on analysis of the latest wave of the government’s Wealth and Assets Survey for over-50s, also found that divorced women are not compensated for a lack of pension wealth with property wealth.

Royal London noted that the average over-50s married couple has double the housing wealth of the average divorced woman of the same age. This breaks down as £359,000 for married couples, compared with £169,000 for divorced women.

Royal London’s director of policy Steve Webb, who was formerly pensions minister, pointed out that one partner often has pension rights which are less visible. However, these can be just as valuable as assets like the family home.

“For example, someone with long service in a final-salary type pension can have rights worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, which can be a crucial part of a fair divorce settlement. Our research shows that the rules which allow for pension rights to be shared after a divorce are failing to deliver equality.

“Divorced women are ending up as the poor relations when it comes to pensions wealth in later life,” he explained.

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