A guide to women’s retirement and pensions

Annabelle Williams


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Your pension is a key part of your retirement planning. How much you put away now, how you invest for the future and how you choose to access your pension once you’ve stopped working, are all key considerations for anyone hoping to enjoy a long and happy retirement. However, when it comes to answering these questions there are some key variables – including whether you are a man or a woman. 

women and pensions

While general pension advice might apply to most people regardless of gender, it’s worth highlighting where there are differences and how, as a woman, this might affect your retirement planning.  

Women generally retire with less than men, why is this? 

In October 2020, research from Nest found that women could be retiring with £41,000 less than men. When modelled on an average UK wage and applied to part-time work, this gap widens to £72,500 
 
So why is this?  
 
Compared to men, women face many more systemic challenges to building a pension pot, such as spending more time out of work or working more part-time hours. However, within the workplace the gender pay gap still exists, as does malpractice on issues such as maternity rightsMore broadly, the choice many women make to have children or stay with their family, can mean they are unable to advance up career ladders that typically would reward them with higher wages and therefore more potential pension contributions. 

What can I do to offset this? 

One way to build up your pension pot is to start early – for example, by starting your pension at 18, you could add an extra £12,500 by retirement. 

Don’t worry if you didn’t start your pension at 18. If you’re still putting money away you can take advantage of investing via compound returns. By adding just an extra £2.50 a week to your pension pot now, you could have an extra £13,600 by the time you retire.

 

You can also make sure you’re getting a fair deal.  Employers should make clear that women on maternity leave are entitled to full pension contributions from their workplace. 

A great way to plan for the future today is with a pension calculator. By knowing what you can afford to retire on, you should be able to get a good idea of what you need to put aside today.

What is the retirement age for women?  

In the eyes of the government there is no official ‘retirement age’. However, there is an age at which you can draw a state pension. This is 66 regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. However, there are currently plans for this to rise slowly over time.

Will the state support me in old age? 

Many people think that the state pension will be enough, but people born after 1953 receive a maximum of around £9,339 a year provided they have made sufficient National Insurance contributions. For many this will not be enough to live comfortably. 

It’s estimated that individuals need £19,000 a year for a comfortable retirement, while couples need around £25,000. If you want a more luxurious retirement, you’re looking at £30,000 a year for an individual or £40,000 for a couple. So, getting your pension planning to where you want it to be can make big differences down the line. 

Do men and women get the same amount of state pension?

Yes.

Does the state pension change for single women?

No.

Does the state pension age change for women? 

The age at which a woman can draw the state pension is now the same as a man, 66. It used to be 60 but it has gradually increased since 2010, bringing it into line with men.

How much is the state pension for a married woman? 

The state pension is as much for a married woman as it is for a single woman. There used to be certain provisions that allowed married women to claim through their husbands or if they were widowed. These are no longer in place. 

How can I make sure I have enough money for my retirement? 

You can complement the state pension with your own private pension which you can start building now by paying into it every month. You’re also likely to be enrolled into a company pension, into which you and your employer will both be making contributions. You can read more about the different types of pension(s) you might have here. 

By investing regularly into a pension, you should be able to build up a large pot over time by seeing returns on your returns, or ‘compound returns’. Our compounding calculator can help you to see the effect of compound returns over time.  

Making regular investments, as opposed to one off deposits, is likely to smoothen out the impact of any short-term market volatility on your pension. By adding smaller amounts more often you are able to take advantage of ‘pound cost averaging’. 

What’s the best way to manage my pension? 

Everyone’s pension is different, but one thing to consider is pension consolidation. If you’ve worked for several different employers, you might have more than one pension. By bringing them all into one pot they are more manageable, you may gain better returns and you won’t be subject to paying multiple fees. But it’s important to check that you won’t lose any pension benefits before you transfer or consolidate your pensions. 

 

Risk warning   
As with all investing, your capital is at risk. The value of your portfolio with Nutmeg can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. Past or future performance indicators are not a reliable indicator of future performance. A pension may not be right for everyone and tax rules may change in the future. Please note that during any transfer, your investments will be out of the market. If you are unsure if a pension is right for you, please seek financial advice

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Annabelle Williams
Annabelle is personal finance specialist at Nutmeg. She is also the author of Why Women Are Poorer Than Men, which looks at economic inequality and gender. In addition to her interest in addressing the gender gap in savings, investment and financial outlook, she is interested in the role of socially responsible investing and the moves the industry is making to offer more ESG-focused investments to retail investors.

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