Research carried out by Which? has suggested that men get a ‘better state pension deal’ than women, with men receiving almost £29,000 more than women over the course of an average 20-year retirement.
The consumer group stated that ‘significant disparities persist’ in regard to the UK’s state pension gender gap, with the average man typically receiving £153.86 per week and the average woman receiving £125.98 a week.
However, the research also suggested that the state pension gender gap has narrowed slightly. In August of last year, the average state pension payment received by women equated to 81.9% of that received by men – a rise when compared to the figure of 79.7% recorded in August 2015.
Commenting on the research, Harry Rose, Money Editor at Which?, said: ‘Our evidence shows how variable people’s state pension payments still are. Many pensioners will be shocked by the differences in average payouts to men and women, and those qualifying under the old and new systems.’
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stated: ‘Around 650,000 women reaching state pension age in the first 10 years will receive an average of £8 per week (in 2015/16 earnings terms) more, due to the new state pension valuation of their national insurance record.’
A study commissioned by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has revealed that volatility in the pensions market could cause those saving for retirement to lose up to £5,000 in their annual pension payments.
The Pensions Policy Institute (PPI) analysed historic investment returns on behalf of the TUC, and found that the size of an individual’s pension pot may vary by up to 40%.
As a result, a man who has been in a defined contribution pension scheme for 40 years, who earns a median wage, could earn an annual income of £16,804 if he were to retire in 2017. In 2000, the same worker would have been able to retire on an annual income of £27,871.
However, the research showed that, whilst the impact of investment returns on women’s pension savings is similar to that of men’s, women are more likely to be reliant on the state pension.
Commenting on the matter, Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, said: ‘Someone who has saved all their working life should not have to play roulette with their pension fund. But if their retirement lands on a bad year, market volatility could leave them with a much poorer standard of living for the rest of their life.
‘Every saver should be enrolled into a well-governed scheme that is able to cushion members from the worst markets can throw at them.’
The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) has called for savings targets to be put into place in order to help individuals save adequate funds for their retirement.
According to research published by the PLSA, more than 13 million people have not saved enough for a comfortable retirement.
In addition, 78% of people aged between 18 and 64 are unsure of where to look to find out if they are on track with their retirement savings.
The trade association has suggested that the UK could look to implement retirement income targets, similar to those used in Australia.
Commenting on the issue, Graham Vidler, Director of External Affairs at the PLSA, said: ‘We all know we need to save for retirement, but few of us know how much we might need to live on or whether we are on track to hit that target.
‘We are . . . looking to develop a new set of retirement income targets that will empower savers by providing tangible targets for them to achieve. We look forward to working closely with stakeholders to build a retirement savings market which is truly focused on the end users – savers.’
The PLSA has launched a consultation on the matter, which will run until January 2018.
A survey carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has revealed that four in five businesses in the UK have been affected by rising costs generated as a result of changes to employment legislation.
In its Annual Workforce Survey, which garnered the opinions of more than 1,400 UK businesses, the BCC found that the Apprenticeship Levy, the National Living Wage (NLW) and pensions auto-enrolment have led to an ‘increase in the cost base of businesses’.
50% of respondents surveyed revealed that the NLW has helped to increase their employment costs, whilst 75% of firms reported a rise in costs as a result of compliance with pensions auto-enrolment.
Meanwhile, 20% of businesses have experienced rising costs as a direct result of the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.
Rising costs could lead to reduced investment and wage growth opportunities, the BCC warned.
Commenting on the findings, Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment and Skills at the BCC, said: ‘Businesses are under increasing pressure from the burden of employment costs, and this will influence the choices they make and outcomes for employees.
‘Higher employment costs impact on the bottom line and reduce the resources available to invest in the business and its people.
‘At a time when employers across the country are facing acute skills shortages, it is vital that they have the resources and flexibility to invest in their workforce and the future needs of the business.’
The government has unveiled a new ban on pensions cold-calling, in order to protect savers from being targeted by ‘unscrupulous pension scammers’.
In addition to a ban on pensions cold calls, the government will also put in place measures to prohibit the sending of unsolicited pensions-related texts and emails.
HMRC intends to tighten up the rules in order to prevent scammers from targeting savers with fraudulent pension schemes. It will also ensure that only active companies producing regular and up-to-date accounts can register pension schemes.
Firms making cold calls without prior customer consent and businesses making calls to individuals with whom they do not have an existing relationship will incur fines of up to £500,000.
The announcement of the ban on pensions cold-calling comes as newly-published figures have revealed that nearly £5 million was stolen from savers by pensions scammers during the first five months of 2017. An estimated £43 million in pension savings has been stolen by criminals since April 2014.
Commenting on the ban, Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, said: ‘If people have saved for a private pension, we want to protect them. This is the biggest lifesaving that individuals normally make over many years of hard work.
‘By tackling these scammers, people should know that cold-calling, apart from exceptional circumstances, is banned.’
The ban will be enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) once it comes into effect. Legislation in regard to the ban will be introduced ‘when parliamentary time allows’.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that retirement income has been ‘boosted’ by private and workplace pensions over the last 40 years.
The ONS found that 80% of retired UK households received income from a private pension in 2016, compared to just 45% of retired households in 1977.
It revealed that just 21% of retired households had an annual disposable income over £10,000 in 1977: in 2016, 96% of retired households had a disposable income of £10,000 or more.
The ONS also found that incomes have grown at a faster rate for older individuals than they have for the young.
Anna Dixon, Chief Executive at the Centre for Aging Better, said: ‘We have seen a dramatic and necessary reduction in pensioner poverty since the 1970s. Being financially secure is a key part of a good later life.
‘However, these averages mask inequalities. In particular, the growing disparity between those who have been unable to save into a pension and those who have not.’
Many consumers are taking out drawdown pensions without seeking regulated financial advice, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned.
The FCA revealed that, before the implementation of pensions freedoms in April 2015, 5% of drawdown was purchased without advice, compared to 30% now.
A range of measures to address the issue have been proposed by the FCA, including gathering evidence on ‘consumer outcomes’ in order to assess whether extra protections should be put in place for those who choose to buy drawdown without obtaining expert advice.
The FCA has also urged the government to consider allowing individuals to access their savings early without being required to make a decision about the remainder of their pot.
Commenting on the issue, Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the FCA, said: ‘Since the introduction of the pension freedoms, the retirement income market has changed substantially.
‘We have identified areas where early intervention may be needed either now or further down the track to put the market on the best footing for the future.’