Exploring the state of the nation’s wealth makes for some depressing reading – not least when it comes to our pension savings.
Almost a quarter (24%) of households had no private pension wealth between 2012 and 2014.
– The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest Wealth and Assets survey
As for those who have saved towards retirement, they have not put away nearly enough with the median total pension wealth standing at just £47,100.
That’s £1,570 annually for the next 30 years – a far cry from ensuring a comfortable retirement, even when topped up with the state pension.
The previous ONS report also reveals a stark gender divide when it comes to pension savings.
The median level of wealth held by men (£127,900) in pensions in payment was more than double than that of women (£61,200).
Why does this concern me?
Well besides being a woman, there are a number of factors which make these numbers a bitter pill to swallow.
Let’s start with life expectancy. It is a well-established fact that women, on average, are expected to live for longer than men. Logic then dictates that we should have more retirement savings because we will need an income for longer.
That’s a nice thought. However, in reality even if a woman does regularly contribute to a private or workplace pension, it is likely that at some stage in her life she will take a career break to start a family. This will inevitably affect how much she saves into her pension.
Women also, on average, still earn less than men and there are fewer women in senior positions.
Only three companies out of the 100 companies in the FTSE blue chip index have female chief executives (it was four before Angela Ahrendts left Burberry for Apple).
If you earn less, you can save less, which inevitably means you are left with a smaller pension pot.
So, what can you do?
As a start, to ensure some financial independence in retirement remember that even if you are not working, you can contribute £2,880 a year into a pension and receive a £720 tax relief top-up from the government. Also consider saving into an ISA.
It is increasingly important for women to invest and have financial plans in their own right.
If you are raising children and managing the home it is unlikely your existing pension benefits will be vast and, given the issue of rising life expectancy, it is even more crucial to make sure you save enough towards your retirement.