The gender divide

Reflecting on 75 years of State Pensions

In the 75 years since the inception of the State Pension, we’ve witnessed dramatic shifts in the workplace and significant strides towards gender equality. Yet, a stark reality remains: women are more likely than men to depend solely on the State Pension for their retirement income.

The State Pension currently stands at £886 per month, granted to those eligible for the full amount under the contemporary rules. Eligibility hinges on having either paid or been credited with 35 years of National Insurance.

New research reveals that nearly half (49%) of women are unaware of this stipulation, compared to 40% of men[1]. This disparity is especially concerning in light of the fact that almost two million women (29%) anticipate relying solely on the State Pension in retirement versus only 13% of men.

Forecasting the future: State Pension age and forecast
Interestingly, fewer women have checked their State Pension age (53% vs 58% of men) or accessed a copy of their State Pension forecast (45% vs 50% of men). The latter is crucial as it outlines the accumulated State Pension and forecasts the potential amount upon reaching the State Pension age. However, women who have reviewed their State Pension forecast found it easier to comprehend (55% vs 52% of men).

Financial expectations in retirement
When it comes to estimating monthly living costs in retirement, women expect to need less (£1153.70) than men (£1,279.20), a difference of over £1,500 annually. This difference in financial expectations extends to plans of working until the State Pension age, with 50% of men intending to do so, compared to 42% of women.

Pre-retirement funding: Both genders
For those planning to retire before reaching State Pension age, several differences emerge in their funding strategies. While similar proportions of both genders aim to fund their pre-retirement living costs through workplace pensions, cash savings, or personal pensions, more men (28%) plan to utilise investment funds than women (17%). Meanwhile, 25% of women intend to access their partners’ pension or savings during this period, versus 15% of men.

The State Pension: A lifeline for many
The State Pension remains a cornerstone of retirement income for many, and for nearly one in three women, it’s the only source of income. Surviving on £886 a month is challenging, particularly amidst the current cost of living crisis. The gap between women’s estimated retirement living costs and their projected State Pension is concerning. Even after fulfilling all National Insurance contributions, women still anticipate needing an extra £250 per month beyond their State Pension.

Retirement should be a time of enjoyment and fulfilment, not financial hardship. With the current cost of living crisis squeezing many household budgets, depending solely on the State Pension could lead to challenging decisions about spending for many years.

Source data:
[1] Royal London commissioned a survey by Opinium between 23 and 30 June 2023, with a sample of 4,000 UK Nat rep consumers. Weighted calculation: 29% of UK based adult population figure of 53,188,000 = 1,874,877.