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Double hit for women as pay gap cuts their options to save

WOMEN are contributing an increasing amount to family finances, but their own finances still have to catch up.

According to a report this week from Aviv,a the percentage of stay-at-home mums has almost halved since the 1960s and '70s.

But women are still lagging behind men in the savings, pensions and protection stakes, according to a slew of recent research.

The percentage of families with a mum who is a full-time homemaker has almost halved over the last 35 years from 62 per cent to 34 per cent, according to Aviva.

Over the same period, the percentage of families who rely on two full-time incomes has doubled to 22 per cent.

The number of families where women are the main breadwinners has also almost doubled to 19 per cent.

Protection insurer Aegon UK has carried out a recent study which found that six out of 10 women aged 25 and over do not have life or health insurance to protect their families against financial hardship should they die or become seriously ill.

This is even though many women cite their families as their priority.

Meanwhile, for mothers, it is the health, happiness and financial security of their children. Yet working mums are clearly stretched. Almost one in three (30 per cent) have no savings, according to Aegon. Where they do save it is normally at lower rates than men.

NS&I's most recent Quarterly Savings Survey found that Scottish women are saving an average of £85 a month, while Scottish men are saving £99 in the same period. Women's lower earnings impact on their ability to save.

However, when they do save, they tend to save a higher proportion of their monthly average income than men (women 9 per cent and men 6 per cent).

Women's pension provision is equally concerning.

Research by BlackRock has found that nearly two thirds of 25 to 34-year-old British women have not yet started to save for retirement.

This is not surprising in view of their other financial priorities which are paying off debts, making their wealth grow, saving for a deposit for a new home, paying off a mortgage and financing their children's education.

According to BlackRock, it is when women reach 45 that they start putting the funding for a comfortable retirement at the top of their financial priorities.

Yet figures from the Office of National Statistics figures show that 37 per cent of women in the 55-64 age group have no private pension at all.

This is almost double the amount compared with men (19 per cent) in the same predicament.

One of the reasons women may fail to save is that they underestimate how much it costs to provide a decent retirement income.

When asked about their annual retirement needs and expectations, the average 25 to 34-year-old woman cites a household income of £29,000 each year.

However, the same age group believes the pot of money they will need to fund it is £142,000.

In fact, around £555,556 is the required amount to fund an annual retirement income of £29,000, says BlackRock.

Investment group Fidelity has also been looking into the subject of women and pensions.

Maike Currie, associate director for Fidelity Personal Investing, says: "It is a well-established fact that women, on average, are expected to live for longer.

"Logic then dictates that we should have more retirement savings because we will need an income for longer.

"However ... women, on average, still earn less than men ... If you earn less, you can save less, which inevitably means you are left with a smaller pension pot."

Women are also less confident than men in their understanding of the new pension rules according Fidelity's research.

In this year's budget it was announced that retirees will no longer be required to buy an annuity. Only 36 per cent of women feel confident in their understanding of the new pension rules.

This compares to around half of all men surveyed.

Many women have concerns that they will be unable to ensure a stable income to live off in retirement.

Less than half of all women surveyed (49 per cent) felt confident in their ability to manage their own pension savings in retirement in order to ensure a suitable standard of living.

Dougy Grant, Aegon's protection director, says he was shocked to find that, when asked what they would do if they were given £180 to spend, only 2 per cent of the mums with children under 18 who were surveyed said they would use the money to purchase life insurance for a year.

One in six would spend the cash in a restaurant (16 per cent) and another one in six (15 per cent) would treat themselves to a new outfit. Women gave a number of reasons for not having cover.

Grant says: "One of the key reasons mothers gave was that they couldn't afford it.

"But this problem seems to be more a perception than reality.because for only around £11 per month a woman aged 39, for example, could take out £100,000 of life insurance for a 25-year term."

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