Womens preparation for retirement has reached an all-time low and is lagging behind their male counterparts, Scottish Widows has warned
In its report UK women and pensions, published yesterday, the firm said that, of the 5,000 respondents to its poll, just 40% of women, compared to 49% men, were preparing adequately for later life. This represents a drop from 42% last year and 50% from 2011, creating a gender pension savings gap of nearly £1,000 a year.
Lynn Graves, Scottish Widows head of development, corporate pensions, said: 'Of particular concern is the number of women in their 40s who are planning to rely on their partner to help support them in retirement, but are unsure of what their pension provision would be were they to separate.
'It is worrying to see that women are continuing to lag behind men in retirement savings. The number of women preparing adequately for retirement has dropped from last year to a record low. This growing gender gap in retirement savings means that women are facing an ever increasing shortfall when it comes to retiring and must act now to ensure they will not be left exposed later in life.'
Scottish Widows' survey also found that women were coming up against barriers to saving at every single stage of life, with different lifestyle factors taking their toll on women of different ages.
Over half of 22 to 29-year-olds said they do not have a pension, compared to 37% of the general female population. Women surveyed in their 20s were found to be tied down by short-term financial pressures and were prioritising living expenses, paying off debts, travel and holidays or saving for a property over saving for retirement.
For women in their 30s, Scottish Widows' found that only 50% work full-time compared with 81% of men of the same age. According to Scottish Windows career breaks and reduced hours have a knock-on effect on women's ability to save.
But by the time women reach their 40s, their financial priorities have changed, again, with almost a quarter of 40 to 49-year-olds saying they had prioritised financial support for their children over retirement saving in the last five years.
And a similar proportion of women in their 50s would rather pay off debts than to save for their retirement, the report found.
Commenting on the survey's findings a Department of Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: 'Our reforms will introduce a single, simple, decent state pension, which will provide a solid foundation for further saving through automatic enrolment into workplace pensions with employer contributions and tax relief.'
Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that the government should look into raising the Universal Pension Allowance which 'has been stuck at £3,600 since 2001'.
'Where a husband is working and their wife is working part-time or taking a career break, they can still make pension contributions on behalf of their partner, using the Universal Pension Allowance.'