Financial Plans for Retirement: Women's Perspectives

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Personal Finance and Retirement

New research published today by the Department for Work and Pensions explores how women plan financially for retirement and how their decisions are influenced by their partners. The findings will contribute to Government policies to encourage pension provision for women.

The report presents findings from in-depth interviews with a range of women of different ages, and, where applicable, their male partners. The research was conducted on behalf of DWP by Wendy Sykes at Independent Social Research, in conjunction with Alan Hedges.

The main findings are:

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* There are many barriers to building up pension provision and pensions knowledge - some apply particularly to women, whilst others are common to both men and women. Typically, labour market explanations have been used to explain the `pension gap' between men and women. This research paints a more complex picture of the layered and interrelated factors affecting women. These include current family priorities overriding concerns about their personal financial future, concerns about tying up resources, the household-based view of retirement income (partner will provide as it is his responsibility), as well as fragmented, part-time, low paid employment.

Women rarely have a clear picture of retirement - it is a remote concept, often associated with the partner's retirement. Women are not sure what income they would need in retirement, nor how to finance it.

Pensions are not high among women's priorities. This research showed that women were more concerned with their family's short-medium term needs than with saving for their own future, and felt that their partner should/would provide for their retirement. Women rarely think of pensions when making child-related employment choices, and few would have made different life choices if they had considered their future financial position. For many women pensions are perceived to be associated with paid employment, and therefore not applicable to them.

* Many couples pool their finances to a degree and this sharing is valued. The research showed that independent pension provision for women was not seen as salient (either by women or their partners). Whilst people know that partnerships often terminate, they don't like to think about it or plan for that eventuality. Many women did not know how their pension situation (State or private) would be affected by divorce, separation or bereavement.

* The research showed some evidence of a cultural shift over time.

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