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Improve pension and savings options for women, says Scottish Widows

16 October 2009 / by Rachael Stiles

Building up a pension pot should be more incentivised for women and they should be allowed more flexibility when it comes to saving for retirement, Scottish Widows has said.

Following the revelation in its Pensions Index this week that the gender gap has widened, Scottish Widows says the Government needs to do more to encourage more women to be financially prepared for the future.

The pension gap between the number of men and women who are saving sufficiently for their retirement is now at 12 per cent, compared to nine per cent in 2008, suggesting that women are trailing behind men when it comes to pension savings. 

Some of the measures that Scottish Widows suggests the Government could implement to provide women with more incentive to save include flexible long-term savings, easier access to the funds before they reach retirement, building awareness of pension needs, a public campaign to tackle the lack of awareness among women about saving adequately for retirement, and encouraging women to put more stock in workplace pensions.

Flexible long-term savings would encourage more women to save because they could have access to part of their pension savings before retirement; a stronger savings culture would also encourage this initiative, Scottish Widows believes.

Easier access to funds in their pension pot before retirement could also encourage more women to save, it says, as having their money locked away has been found to be a 'major obstacle' to saving.

Building pension awareness can best be achieved through a multi-channel approach, which would see the Government's free Money Guidance service offered face-to-face as well as online, as the majority of women aged 18 to 29 would prefer a face-to-face service, Scottish Widows' research found.

Fewer women have personal pensions today than in 2008, Scottish Widows' Pension Index shows, highlighting the need to raise awareness of retirement planning among women.

A stronger emphasis on workplace pensions would encourage women to put more importance on pensions alongside their other main priorities, such as maternity leave, location and flexi-time, compared to men's more economic priorities of pay, bonuses and other benefits.

Ian Naismith, head of pensions market development at Scottish Widows said: "For women, trying to save consistently for retirement it is often difficult as many take time out of working life to have a family, and they may put their families' needs over and above their own.

The Government's recent measures do not go far enough, and much more can be done, he said, to lessen the gender gap and "ensure that women can enjoy a comfortable retirement."

However, Mr Naismith added, "it's also up to women to take their retirement savings into their own hands. The golden rule for pensions savings should be to put 12% of income aside for retirement but if women were given more encouragement to save that would help them achieve their retirement goals."

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