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Expert tips to help women narrow the pensions gender gap

The gender pension gap – or the difference between the amounts that men and women have saved for retirement – can be tough to overcome, with females often bearing the brunt of caring responsibilities and earning lower wages.

Ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8), a new survey has shed further light on the gap.

It found six in 10 (60%) of women haven’t done any pension planning beyond making sure they’re enrolled in their workplace scheme – higher than the 46% of men surveyed who also said this.

Less than half (44%) of women with a workplace pension say they know how it is performing, compared with six in 10 (60%) men, the research for at-retirement adviser My Pension Expert has found.

Women in the Opinium survey of 2,000 people in January were also more likely to say they contribute only the minimum amount required into their workplace pension pot (19%) compared with men (15%).

Lily Megson, policy director at My Pension Expert, says: “Our research casts a daunting shadow over the financial futures of British women as the gender pensions gap once again rears its ugly head.”

The research follows a recent report from pensions provider NOW: Pensions and the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI), which indicates that women face needing to work for an extra 19 years to retire with the same pension savings as men typically.

There may be some steps women can take to at least narrow the gap.

Jackie Leiper, managing director at Scottish Widows says: “One of the most important things women can do is to always keep in mind their own personal finances, including their pension. We know that around one in five women plan to rely at least in part on their partner’s income during retirement.”

Leiper advises keeping pensions “in the discussion” – including if a couple decide to call it a day and get divorced. Pensions may be overlooked when couples split.

For those in a couple, consider the financial impact of career breaks and caring responsibilities on both of your retirement plans, and perhaps discuss ways that they could be shared more equally.

And, if you’ve taken time out of work, it could be worth checking whether you’re eligible for national insurance credits, which could count towards the state pension.

The earnings “trigger” for people to be automatically placed into a workplace pension by their employer is £10,000 – but if you’re earning less you could still ask to join.

If you’ve worked for several employers, you might have other pensions. The Pension Tracing Service can help to track them down.

Childcare costs can also make pension saving harder – check you’re getting the help you’re entitled to at Childcare Choices.

Leiper also suggests paying into a pension from an early age. This can help off-set income drops later, if you take a career break or go part-time.

She explains: “By taking control of their contributions and increasing them as early as possible, young women stand a fighting chance of improving their long-term savings outlook.”

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