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Women still struggle to save as much for retirement as men

Lucinda Beeman
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Lucinda Beeman

Having saved the same amount towards retirement over a 40 year period, men can end up £89,000 better off than women, according to Scottish Widows.

Auto-enrolment and George Osborne’s overhaul of the pension system don’t go far enough to address systemic savings inequality– men are the beneficiaries of a system geared towards male working patterns and behaviours, which too often fails to recognise the unique circumstances that impact women’s retirement planning, according to the pension provider.

Research shows that while a woman’s average savings pot has dropped by £260 over the past 12 months men’s have grown by £200, indicating a growing gender gap. 

Jackie Leiper, director of employer relationships at Scottish Widows, said: “There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to help women overcome the barriers to saving for their future. It’s therefore crucial that the industry, advisory groups and policymakers work together to improve educational resources and access to information and advice that is designed to resonate with a female audience and is delivered at key trigger points.”

Women face several barriers to saving; not only does women’s pay still fall behind that of their male counterparts in several industries, but the competing pressures of work and family mean more women–one in five, as opposed to just eight per cent of men–work part-time and take significant periods out of the workplace for maternity leave and caring responsibilities.

Scottish Widows calculates that a typical career break could reduce a woman’s pension pot by £28,000.

Women were also found to be more risk averse, limiting the potential of what savings they did have to grow. 10 per cent of men and only five per cent of women say they prefer their pension to be invested to produce the best possible returns, despite the risks of losing out if stock markets fell.

Only 14 per cent of women told Scottish Widows they were saving for the long term, versus 21 per cent of men; however, 21 per cent of women save exclusively for the short term, compared to 18 per cent of men who do so. Scottish Widows writes: “This suggests that women are more focused on covering short-term and day-to-day living costs.”

Leiper said: “Some simple structural changes could help. Widening the scope for paying into a pension outside of paid employment and allowing couples to plan for retirement together would give women more flexibility in building up their own pension savings. In addition to this, improving the tax incentives for ISAs would encourage women to plan for the longer term, while still accommodating their preference for some ‘rainy day’ access to savings.”