How do you feel about your financial future? My thoughts have changed significantly over time and vary depending on my life stage. I thought it would be interesting to speak to a few of my friends aged over 50 to understand their thoughts, provisions and views towards their financial future and how they are providing for themselves.
Pension gap research
Firstly a few stats. PensionBee recently completed some research on the pension gap. You might have heard this term in the media and not paid much attention, but it’s pretty shocking. The average UK pension pot for a man is £23,416 and the average for a woman is £16,083 – a significant 31% difference.
The geographic gap is even starker in certain areas of the country, with women in the North East facing a 50% gap and women in Northern Ireland struggling with a pension that’s 76% smaller. Greater London, as maybe expected, fairs better with a gap of 27%. Take a look at how your region compares on the pension landscape microsite.
The gap worsens beyond the age of 50
The research highlights a huge problem here; women are far less prepared financially for older age than men. Even more shocking is an analysis of pension gaps and age, which worsens as women get older. Women over 50 experience a gap of almost 50%, with men at an average pot of £53,400 and women at £31,300*.
Why do women have less in their pension pots?
Of course, women have babies, which can affect our finances in a big way. I know I stopped my pension contributions during all three of my maternity leaves to maximise my earnings in that financially difficult time. Many women take a career break for several years to bring up their children. These women may then struggle with a return to work and/or take lower paid jobs to work around their children’s school hours. These factors inevitably affect our earning potential and pension contributions during our 30s and 40s, meaning that the pot in our 50s and beyond is much less.
I know I stopped my pension contributions during all three of my maternity leaves
Many women realise that a return to the corporate world is a huge challenge after children, hands up Lynn! I tried it for one year after my maternity leave with my third child Jack. I couldn’t hack it. Commuting four days a week, working 12-hour days and not seeing my three boys was tough. I negotiated redundancy one year after my return to work. My pot stood at £43,000 at that point of leaving and is now growing nicely with PensionBee. Since then my pension pot hasn’t been added to.
Real-life examples of women in their 50s
I wanted to speak to a cross section of my friends in their 50s to explore how they are doing with their pension and financial planning for retirement. I asked them all the same five questions and their responses were very different and very interesting.
Are you employed/self-employed? Do you have a pension pot, and how much is in it?
What is your savings/investment/pension strategy for retirement?
At what age do you plan to retire?
How do you feel about your pension and do you have enough money for retirement?
If you don’t think you have enough saved, what are your plans to address this?
M - Executive Director (aged 51)
M has a current pot of £87,000 and currently contributes 12%, plus her employer matches 10%. M had children early in life and started her corporate career in her 40s. Her intention is to keep going with pension contributions increasing them by 1% each year.
She plans to have a phased retirement by reducing her hours upon reaching 60, health dependant. M feels like she doesn’t have enough in her pot, but realises she still has time to build it up. M has an ISA as extra savings and expects to receive some inheritance to boost her pot.
Helena - self-employed yoga instructor (aged 51)
Helena and her partner are both self-employed and neither has a pension. They do own a property in London, which has equity of around £250,000 and is increasing in value each year.
Helena loves her job and sees no need to retire at any point really
Helena loves her job and sees no need to retire at any point really. She takes time when needed and trusts that the rest is looked after. She’s one of the healthiest, zen people I know and doesn’t stress about money – it comes and goes. She finds it when she must, and it flows in and out. She has no worries about the future as she has no idea what that holds.
Justina - self-employed business owner (aged 50)
Justina runs her own business and has done for ten years, for which time she has been self-employed. She doesn’t have a pension pot. Her financial provisions include property and developing her business model. The property plan includes selling property when the time is right, downsizing and living off the capital. She is currently exploring options with a financial planner.
Justina has created a global franchise model around her business. The plan is that through ongoing franchises across the world and the royalty fees they pay, she will be able to draw passive income for years to come.
She will carry on working for as long as she can. She feels comfortable with property investment, as she will have a substantial amount left if she sells, even after paying off the mortgage. The business aspect is a bit riskier as you never can be sure of outcomes, but fingers crossed it will work out the way she intends.
Justina and her partner have some investments in other companies, which will also provide good revenue if and when they sell (that is their exit strategy). She is comfortable that this is enough provision for retirement.
D - self-employed accountant (aged 56)
D was employed for most of her adult life by the same employer and has a pension pot of £650,000. She is now a self-employed accountant. She is intending to manage her pension fund in a tax efficient way by drawing down on annual allowances, and plans to retire at 65.
She recognises that her current pension pot value is good and given current market conditions should provide a good standard of living. D’s concerns for retirement include the cost of being cared for in old age. She believes that her pension provisions and the equity in her home will provide enough cover for this.
Those are four very different provisions for the future. Each woman has a provision of money set aside but each is very different. All are suitable for their life position, employment status and intended expenses in retirement - there is no one-size-fits-all number. Everyone has a different intention and view of retirement, so think hard on this as you save.
There is no one-size-fits-all number
These provisions will all be on top of the State Pension currently set at £164.35 per week. For impartial advice for the over 50s check out Pension Wise and have a read about what I did with my pensions moving them all over to PensionBee, turning frozen pots from two employers into a fully accessible and trackable pot, currently worth £48,000.
Lynn James is a PensionBee customer and CEO/Founder of Mrs Mummypenny, a personal finance blog and winner of the Best Parenting and Money blog 2017.
*Source: PensionBee, based on a sample of 5,098 savers
As always with investments, your capital is at risk. The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest. This information should not be regarded as financial advice.