Despite efforts to draw attention to the disadvantages women face financially, there seems to be a continuous stream of research that tells us these issues persist.
Perhaps one of the most striking statistics is that the gender pay gap is not expected to close until at least 2050.
What’s more, while women are more likely to save than men, research from the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) finds they typically save lower amounts. For instance, women aged 25 to 34 are more likely to hold an ISA – 1.5m compared with 1.38m men – but the average ISA market value for this group of women is £5,118, which is nearly fifth (17%) lower than the average value for men (£6,180).
In terms of retirement savings, men typically amass five times the pension pot of women by the age of 65 – £35,700 versus £179,091. Other research, meanwhile, underlines how systematic issues for example with child care benefits can wipe as much as £23,000 off higher earning women’s state pension entitlement.
Due to greater longevity, however, women can expect to spend longer in care than men. The average cost for a woman entering a care home aged between 65 and 74 is, therefore, nearly double the cost at £132,000, for expected stays of four years for a woman versus two and a half years for men.
This combination of financial shortfall but greater costs in later life surely should act as a catalyst for women looking for help in managing and making greater use of their finances. With this in mind, Professional Adviser spoke to advisers to see if they had seen an increase in women seeking advice.
Confidence is key
Personal Finance Society president and Thornton Chartered Financial Planners managing director Sharon Sutton says she has seen an increase in women seeking advice, particularly from younger cohorts but says confidence in discussing finances was still an issue.
“Money is the last taboo,” she says. “And when you look at things demographically, certainly I know from my day job as a financial planner, is if I see female clients at retirement the majority of conversations are about the fact that the woman has taken less of an interest than their partner.”
“Confidence is a big thing with women. Imposter syndrome is massive, particularly for older cohorts.”
ISJ Independent Financial Planning director Lena Patel estimates enquiries from potential female clients increased by around half in the last year, focusing mainly on divorce and bereavement. Around two-thirds of her client base is female.
“I think if you’ve been through a divorce, you are more heightened to taking control of your life and ensuring your financial stability. I see it all the time where women have just left managing finances to their partner,” says Patel. “When you’re on your own [as a woman] you don’t really talk about your finances to your children etc. and so you have no one really to talk to about it.”
Research from Scottish Widows found less than three-quarters (71%) of people do not discuss their pension during divorce proceedings, leaving women to miss out on £5bn every year.
‘Positive change afoot’
Independent Women head Jennifer Davy says she has also seen an increase in the number of advice enquiries from women, up by around a fifth in the past 12 months.
While her firm specialises in providing financial advice to women, around a quarter of Davy’s client base is male and she still notes how the rate of enquiries from women had recently accelerated.
“The good thing is there does seem to be a positive change afoot in the last 12 months,” she says. “There’s a greater awareness of the access to information now, whereas historically there has been a hesitation around discussing finances.
“There’s a slow turning point in terms of people knowing there is help out there and somewhere they can go to have confidential chat without feeling judged.”
Davy agrees but says divorce and bereavement are a key prompt for women inquiring about advice.
“As women, we’re very self-sacrificing and we only tend to look at these issues when there is a calamitous event which makes it necessary,” she comments. “Obviously it’s a life-shaking event and something has to be done, so a lot of women will come to us thinking that now’s the time to reboot their life.
“It can be quite cathartic, with them thinking they had no options [financially] but realising there are opportunities.”