Women must save £185,000 more during their careers to match men’s retirement income

Women have to save up to £185,000 more than men during their careers to match what men will earn in retirement, according to research from Scottish Widows.

The £185,000 figure can be broken down into £100,000 extra to bridge the savings gap, £50,000 to cover women’s’ longer life expectancy and £35,000 to pay for the extra care needs that this entails.

Scottish Widows has published its annual Women and Retirement report since 2006, looking at the differences between the sexes when it comes to retirement outcomes. In its latest report it has found women in their 20s today will save around £250,000 on average by the time they retire, while men will typically save £350,000.

Life expectancy for men and women also differs. A man aged 25 today is expected to live to age 86 on average, while a woman can expect to live to 89. It would take a £400,000 pot for the woman to match retirement incomes thanks to this longer life expectancy.

What is causing the discrepancy?

Looking at why there is a gender gap when it comes to retirement outcomes is not down to one simple thing.

Women can expect to earn around 40% less than men during their working years according to recent research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). While this gap has decreased by around 25% in the past 25 years, it is difficult to close as typically, women fall behind in income terms when they take time out of the workforce to have children. The majority of gains according to the IFS are down to improvement in education among women in the past quarter decade.

As a result of these lower income expectations, savings and retirement outcomes are also negatively affected, causing the aforementioned savings gap. This is compounded by the fact that women tend to live longer too.

What can be done about it?

It is a difficult issue to resolve, especially as the only way to really avoid the shortfall is to not take time out from work. And with societal changes that reflect the discrepancy unlikely to be forthcoming any time soon, women need to take matters into their own hands.

In the situation where female workers are taking maternity leave or even breaks from careers, they should consider trying to contribute to a pension while off work or get a partner to contribute on their behalf. Anyone not working can still put in up to £2,880 each year. If someone is on paid maternity leave, ensuring they continue to pay in to a workplace pension is essential too.

Other potential measures to consider include increasing workplace pension contributions, deferring State Pension payments as long as possible and getting started with saving at as early an age as feasible.

Other than that, the best solution for women’s wealth is to have it working as hard as possible. This means making sure wealth is kept in a savings vehicle which will enable it to grow over time and ensuring any investment portfolios are structured for the best long-term outcomes.