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Johanna Nelson

Johanna Nelson

By Johanna Nelson, Associate Director, Communications, and Darren Hedgley, Associate Director, Punter Southall Aspire

There is currently a year-long celebration of Oscar Wilde plays at the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End of London. Wilde’s themes of an unfair society, the inequity of power between men and women and hypocritical sexual moralities may be about life one hundred years ago, however, rather sadly, they seem just as strong and present today.

With these in mind, it’s perhaps no great surprise that women face greater challenges when it comes to saving for their retirement. Last year, Prudential’s research (the Retirement Income Gender Gap) found that a woman retiring in 2017 expects to have £6,400 a year less than a man (up by £1,000 from the year before).

These two facts seem somewhat unjust to us – especially when the gap is largely driven by uncontrollable factors such as:

  • The gender pay gap
  • Career breaks to raise family
  • Legacy stereotypes of male financial reliance

One point of solace is that women’s life expectancy is greater than men’s. But then that adds another challenge, of more years to fund!

The solution to this gap isn’t straightforward. Realistically it will take time to tackle and improve the facts that will drive change, including:

  • Legislation
  • Employer attitudes and support, and
  • Women’s own savings attitudes and behaviour
Darren Hedgley

Darren Hedgley

Further legislation is obviously needed in this area to bring employers into line. Despite the enactment of equality legislation, it is clear from recent BBC scandal that there is still some way to go to make sure women are getting equal treatment when it comes to pay. Changing ingrained employer attitudes and male dominated Boards is a more gradual process and is going to take time. In the meantime, what can women do to ensure ‘an ideal retirement’?

Well, there are many actions women can take to get better outcomes in retirement:

  1. Don’t rely on men! OK, we might be being slightly facetious here but with London being the divorce capital of the world it’s an unfortunate fact that we won’t all necessarily live happily ever after. Women need to plan for themselves financially and take pension savings seriously.  The Scottish Widows, Women and Retirement Report 2017 revealed that on average, a married couple is likely to have around £132k in pension savings, yet 7 in 10 divorced couples didn’t discuss pensions as part of their settlement. Couples place more value on pets than they do on pensions!
  2. Be mindful that as women live longer than men, there is a need to save a greater amount to fund for a longer life… the alternative is the more unpalatable option of working longer into old age. Not ideal if you ask either of us.
  3. Women need to ask their employer if they use salary sacrifice (sometimes also known as salary exchange or SMART pay) for their pension contributions. If not, they may want to ask why not as it can help increase take home pay and the pension contributions being paid in, as well as providing full tax relief at source.
  4. Women shouldn’t count on the State Pension too early. State Pension ages have been undergoing radical changes since April 2010, particularly for women. The move to equalise the state pension age to 65 for men and women has been accelerated and will have a big impact for females born in the 1950s.  However, in spite of press coverage and campaigns from groups such as ‘Women Against State Pension Inequality’ (WASPI), the Government announced last month (8th February 2018) that there would be no move to alter or soften the increases to women’s state pension age.

Finally, it’s impossible to reference Oscar Wilde and then not provide one of his famously witty quotes, so here it is…“The only good thing to do with good advice is pass it on; it is never of any use to oneself.”

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