Young women ‘must work 40 years longer than men’ to plug £100k pension gap

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Young women would have to work nearly 40 years longer than men to build up the same retirement pot, according to a report highlighting the pensions gender gap.

The average woman in her 20s can expect to have £100,000 less in her pension pot than a man of the same age as a result of earning less, working part-time, and taking time out of paid employment to care for family members.

The calculations, made by pensions company Scottish Widows to coincide with International Women’s Day, showed that a female saver would typically save £2,200 annually for the first 15 years of her career, compared with £3,300 for a young man. The average woman in her 20s today would have to work 37 years longer than a man of the same age to reach retirement parity.

The lower contributions are due to lower earnings, with the median salary standing at £26,100 for a 25-year-old man and £23,700 for a woman the same age, and in part due to a lack of engagement among young female savers, Scottish Widows said.

While 56% of men in their 20s are saving the recommended minimum of 12% of their income, among women the figure is 46%.

When typical working patterns of time off to have children and some years spent in part-time work are factored in, the company said a woman starting saving at 25 could expect to have £100,000 less in her pension pot by her retirement at age 68 than a man of the same age.

The gap between the sexes has been further widened by the pandemic which has affected incomes in roles more often performed by women.

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Jackie Leiper of Scottish Widows said: “Women were already facing systemic challenges when saving for retirement. We know that young women have been some of the hardest hit by the short-term financial impact of the pandemic and this has only exacerbated the challenge of reaching pensions parity.”

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She added: “At the same time, caring responsibilities and high childcare costs are keeping women out of the workforce, lowering their contributions and denting their pension pots.”

Separately, pension provider NFU Mutual said that almost twice as many men have private retirement funds compared with women.

The firm said that 35% of its private pensions are taken out by women and that these have an average of £7,390 less in them than men’s.

“The significant difference in average pension values shows women are missing out on valuable tax relief available to them. It’s still true that women are more likely to have interrupted careers due to pregnancies and bringing up children, and pension contributions often fall during this time,” said Anisa Byrne at NFU Mutual.

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“Private pensions and additional contributions can help plug those gaps when women are not working, as savers still receive 20% tax relief on contributions even if they’re not earning. That means for every £80 paid in, HMRC adds an additional £20.”

Scottish Widows said women would fare better if they increased their pensions contributions at the start of their career. “By taking control of their contributions and increasing them as early as possible, young women stand a fighting chance of improving their long-term savings outlook,” said Leiper.

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Last week, it emerged that about 200,000 women could be in line for pension back payments averaging £13,500 after an investigation into the underpayment of state pensions over the last 20 years.