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Women & Retirement Report

The average woman in her twenties will have to work almost 40 years longer than her male counterpart to build up the same pension, according to a report by Scottish Widows.

According to the company’s report, published to coincide with International Women’s Day, a female saver can expect to have £100,000 less in her retirement savings thanks to the time taken out of the workplace to raise children or care for family members.

She will typically save £2,200 annually during the first 15 years of her career, compared to £3,300 for a man the same age, according to Scottish Widows. This means she would have to work 37 years longer to reach the same level of retirement funds.

Women in their twenties not only tend to earn less than men (median salary at 25 is £26,100 for a man and £23,700 for a woman) but they also are less engaged about saving for their retirement, the report claimed.

Fifty-six percent of men in their twenties save the recommended minimum of 12% of income, compared to 46% of women. Once taking time off to have children and some part-time working is factored in, this creates a major “gender pensions gap” by the age of 68, it said.

To reach the calculation, Scottish Widows assumes that a woman and man start working and saving 25, at the median salary for their age and retire at 68. The man takes no career breaks, while the woman takes a total of 2.5 years of career breaks in her late twenties and early thirties, typically for maternity leave.

Both do some part-time work during their career, but the woman spends seven more years in part-time work than the man – 42% of women work part-time, compared to 13% of men. It then assumes both save a varying amount of their income throughout their career, which grows by 2% each year in real terms.

Scottish Widows argues that if women had better knowledge about the importance of pension savings in their twenties, this gap could be closed.

The company’s 2020 Women and Retirement report called for the government to raise the default contribution to pensions so employees could save more, and for employers to continue to contribute a portion of salary at points when staff choose to opt-out.

It also called for pensions auto-enrolment to be extended to the self-employed, and for the minimum age for auto-enrolment to be lowered to 18 (from 22), so employees have a longer period in which to save for their retirement.

The report found that while the highest proportion of women are saving for retirement since it began its analysis, young women are still the most likely to fall behind men in terms of saving adequately for retirement.