Is pension advice failing women?

Sarah Crouch


4 min read

For those curious about how they’re shaping up for retirement, there’s no shortage of advice.

As I sit here, writing on December 12th, a quick Google search for ‘pension advice’ brings 158 million results, over three times the search volume for ‘Nutmeg’ and 154 million more than ‘does nutmeg have health benefits’ (it does). Strangely though, the uniformness of those pension tips doesn’t reflect the fundamental differences between people.

Nowhere else is this more apparent than in the male/female divide. Women, according to our own research1, face a 37% gap in their pensions – or £448,263 to £284,305– for various reasons, many of which we wrote about in a recent blog post.

We can’t do justice to most in a brief blog post, but we reckon that an awareness of the disparity, as well as the ways in which pension advice is skewed towards the male bias, can help highlight the imbalance.

Beware generic pension advice

Unintentional or not, rules of thumb in pension advice can obscure the fact that women face very different challenges in retirement.

Take Fidelity’s ‘rule of seven’, which says that households in the UK who have put away seven times their annual household income by age 68 should be able to retire without compromising their living standards. This, despite new research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that shows the gender pay gap is at its widest for women in their 50s, with women’s average salaries at that age being 28% – or £12,509 – lower than men’s.

This disparity is especially dangerous given that divorce rates for the 50-and-overs are rising. And the resulting ‘splitting of assets’ can wind up leaving an inadequate pot for both parties, particularly if one half of the relationship is earning considerably more or less.

Then there’s the received wisdom that the percentage you pay into your pot should be roughly half the age at which you start paying in – so 15% if you begin at age 30.

But with women nearly three times as likely to take a career break, usually to care for children or elderly relatives, a savings model based on uninterrupted employment is… well, risky.

If, like so many women, you expect to take a career break, or if you’ve taken one already, personalised planning and advice can help you look ahead and make informed decisions.

Looking again at common themes across pensions advice, the go-to message for ageing workers closer to their retirement goal is “don’t worry”. Often the pension advice reads something like “get a side hustle” or “work a little longer”. But given how dramatically the average pot size differs between men and women, solutions like a side hustle or more years in the office may feel a little inadequate.

Last October, the Chartered Insurance Institute showed that at age 65, women have average pension savings of £35,800. For context, this is around 20% the size of the £179,000 average held by men. A pay gap of 17.3% is partly to blame, but an often-overlooked factor is a tendency among women to take less risks with their money.

Although women and men tend to put similar amounts into different types of investment, holding a mix of funds, shares and cash, men are generally more aggressive in their approach. This aversion to risk, says the Share Centre, could leave women more than £12,000 out of pocket in the long-term.

Most damning of all is research by King’s Business School to show there is a gender bias in the advice given to high net worth individuals. In it, they found male advisers were more likely to recommend higher risk investments to their male clients. They also found that female advisers were more likely to see female clients as less in control of their wealth and score them lower on financial knowledge than their male counterparts.

The reasons behind these biases are deep rooted and complex. But even a very minor acknowledgment that generic financial advice can sometimes fall on the default male could help overcome some of the common pitfalls for women. Pension advice may not be failing women per se, but it’s fair to say they face very different challenges to their male peers. Challenges advisers would be wise to acknowledge more explicitly in their advice.

So, what can you do about it? You can review your pensions as they stand – do you know how much you currently have and with which providers? Could you benefit from consolidating your existing pensions to one place and lower your fees? There are also tools, like our pension calculator , that can help you see if you’re on track. And for personalised guidance and advice on next steps, you can book a free initial call with our advice team.

Everyone has goals in life. Financial advice and guidance from our experts can help you get there.

Research:

  1. Populus conducted an online sample of 2,076 GB/UK adults between 2-4 July 2019. Data is weighted to be representative of the population of Great Britain. Targets for quotas and weights are taken from the National Readership Survey, a random probability F2F survey conducted annually with 34,000 adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by it rules. Click here for further information.
  2. These figures do not take into account the effect of investment costs such as management fees or trading fees, which would lower the final amount.

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. A pension may not be right for everyone and tax rules may change in the future. If you are unsure if a pension is right for you, please seek financial advice.

 

 

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Sarah Crouch

Sarah is a paraplanner supporting the financial advisers here at Nutmeg. She joined the customer team in January 2018, building on her 12 years’ experience in private client wealth management. Outside of the office, Sarah explores London’s hidden gems, food markets and events, and supports social enterprise and community projects.


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