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Women are facing the gender pension gap, a widespread issue which means many are left with a sub-standard pension pot which drastically impacts their later life. The under-funding issue has led some experts to suggest Government intervention is necessary. spoke to Maike Currie, Investment Director at Fidelity International about the matter.

Ms Currie highlighted the challenges which women of all ages often need to face, and indeed consider ahead of time to ensure they are financially protected.

A failure to do so could mean many are left out of pocket and limited in their retirement.

Ms Currie said: “The average man has a pension pot of £157,000, while for the average woman this stands at £51,000 – a third of her male counterpart.

“Once you bear in mind that women live longer than men, often outliving men, this problem is brought into focus.

“The only way for a woman to get the same income as a man logically means they need to actually have a bigger pension pot than their male counterparts.”

The gender pension gap shows the stark reality which is facing many women as they near retirement.

However, questioning the reasons why this gap occurs, Ms Currie continued, is particularly important.

She stated: “Some say this is attributable to the gender pay gap, while others say early retirement may be an issue. 

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“But the main contributing factor by far is the different working patterns between men and women – the fact women take time away from work.

“Women take career breaks often to raise a family, which is referred to as the ‘motherhood penalty’ because of the kind of impact this can have on your finances and long-term savings. 

“But women can also take breaks when it comes to looking after sick or elderly relatives.”

The idea of a significant load for women to bear in this sense has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

Women have been required to potentially take on additional responsibilities, with their working and indeed pension plans often taking a back seat.

Ms Currie continued: “The childcare burden was significant during the pandemic, and rose because of the increased time we all spent at home.

“Most of that was left to women to pick up, as household duties are still not evenly distributed between couples.

“Equally, with many people sick and poorly during this time, a lot of women were dropping off groceries, taking care of their parents and the like – and that is the biggest factor for the pension gap.”

When looking at the gender pension gap, then, Ms Currie has said this is the issue which really needs to be examined.

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While she highlighted many women in their 40s and 50s are engaging better with their workplace pensions than men, financial instability may still remain.

This is because as women are increasingly having children later in life, they may be meeting costs at this age that women in the past may have otherwise already dealt with. 

As a result of the plethora of issues women have to face, it may not be enough for individuals to simply take action by themselves. 

Ms Currie concluded: “This is where we need to be asking what Government needs to be doing in order to help.

“Under current carry-forward rules, you’re only allowed to carry forward unused allowances of how much you’re allowed to put into your pension from three years prior.

“If you are working part-time, self-employed or have multiple jobs, you may not fall under the net of auto-enrolment because of the £10,000 threshold.

“These are the kind of issues which the Government needs to tackle head on to ensure women are being scooped up and protected.”

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