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Women’s retirement planning at new low

The number of women preparing adequately for retirement is at an all-time low and well behind male provision levels, new research shows.

Only 40 per cent of women are putting away enough for later life, compared to 49 per cent of men, according to pension provider Scottish Widows.

This is a drop from 50 per cent only two years ago in 2011.

Scottish Widows defines "preparing adequately" as those saving at least 12 per cent of their income - or people expecting their main retirement funding to come from a guaranteed final-salary pension. 

Gender savings gap

The company’s Women and Pensions Report – an annual survey of 5,000 people - found 37 per cent of women have no pension whatsoever, compared to 27 per cent of men.

And the picture is little better for those women who are saving.

The report found they only manage to put aside £182 per month on average, well below the average amount of £260 among men.

This creates a gender pension savings gap of nearly £1,000 a year.  

Barriers to saving exist at every life stage

The report found many women are coming up against barriers to saving at every stage of their lives, with different lifestyle factors taking their toll at different ages.

  • Women in their 20s

Women in their 20s were found to be tied down by short-term financial pressures.

For example, 42 per cent said they are prioritising living expenses over saving for retirement and 26 per cent said they are paying off debts.

Meanwhile, 18 per cent are putting away money for a property.

  • Women in their 30s

Perhaps due to family commitments, only 50 per cent of women in their 30s work full-time, compared with 81 per cent of men of the same age.

This means the average 30-something woman brings in an average income of £19,200 before tax – well behind the £28,700 an average 30-something man takes home.

Unsurprisingly, career breaks and cutting back on hours have a knock-on effect on women’s ability to save.

Those in their 30s save £87 per month on average towards retirement, outside of pension and property investments, compared with £151 for men.

  • Women in their 40s

By the time women reach their 40s, their financial priorities have changed, the report suggests.

Almost a quarter – 23 per cent - of 40 to 49-year-olds said they had prioritised financially supporting their children over retirement saving in the last five years.

Meanwhile, 24 per cent also said they expect their partner’s income to help support them in retirement.

  • Women in their 50s

Despite their proximity to retirement age, paying off debt is still at the forefront of the minds of many women in their 50s – 24 per cent said paying off debt is a bigger priority than retirement saving.

Women in their 50s owe an average amount of £11,400, slightly higher than the £11,000 average debt females in their 40s have. 

Women urged to take responsibility for finances

Of all the life stages, Scottish Widows spokeswoman Lynn Graves said of particular concern is the number of women in their 40s who are planning to rely on their partner to help support them in retirement.

The research showed 79 per cent of females in this age group planning to rely on a partner in later life are unsure of what their pension provision would be were they to separate.

She said: "We should encourage these individuals to take full responsibility for their financial independence.

"Knowing what you are entitled to allows you to make informed choices and gives you a back-up plan if anything were to go wrong."

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Adam Jolley

Adam Jolley

Adam Jolley is a content producer at He joined us in May 2012 from the world of financial services PR.

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