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Women’s care home fees twice men’s while pensions worth 5x less

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Women are more likely to be trapped in poverty in later life due to lower pay, child care responsibilities and smaller pension savings.

The average woman outperforms the average man in education and earns as much as men in her twenties.

But from the age of 30, a significant pay gap opens, according to research by Insuring Women’s Futures (IWF), a programme by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII).

This is because women in this age group typically spend time caring for children, perhaps having a part-time job or temporary work only.

By the time women reach their 40s and 50s, they may also be caring for an adult and this lifestyle coupled with loss of earnings has a big impact on their ability to save and plan for the future.

This is especially evident when it comes to pension savings as the average man accumulates five times the pension pot of the average woman by the age of 69. While men have £179,091, women have just £35,800.

When it comes to women who have experienced a relationship breakdown, such as divorce, the retirement savings are even more dire as they have a mere £9,019 compared £30,341 for divorced men.

Despite lesser earnings and pensions, women have a higher life expectancy than men (83 and 79 for a girl and boy born today) but this leaves them at a disadvantage.

The IWF said women typically have more years in ill-health at the end of their lives (19 years on average, compared to 16 years for men), and need professional care for twice as long as their male counterparts. The average cost of women entering a care home from 65 to 74 is £132,000 – nearly double the cost of men’s.

Sian Fisher, CEO of the CII and chair of the IWF committee, said “Women today are left disproportionately exposed to risks that society is not overtly recognising. This is at the same time as historic support systems are receding. We are moving from a dependence culture to one of independence, where we will have to be less reliant on our partners, families, communities and the state, and must take charge of our own financial welfare. Yet today’s women are simply unprepared for the risks that they will face in life.

“This is not just a ‘women’s issue’, it is a wider risk for society because if we don’t address it now, we will face a huge burden of care that we will not be able to sustain.”

The IWF is setting up an industry task force to consider solutions to tackle this issue while empowering women to protect themselves against the risks they face in life.

Baroness Ros Altmann, former pensions minister, said: “As consumers we all have a lot of risks to worry about. It’s easy to become disengaged; simply from feeling there are too many competing risks. Should I worry about paying into a pension, getting a mortgage or paying off my debts? Studies like this help to clarify those priorities, helping us all to decide how we can take charge and engage in managing our personal and family risk.”