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Retirement, protection and the gender divide

Throughout September, Friends Life ran a research campaign highlighting some key differences in approach between the sexes when it comes to financial planning and protection. The ‘SeptGender’ campaign also provided more evidence of the relatively low priority placed on retirement planning by both men and women.

The different strands of the campaign focused on three key findings:
• A survey of 2,000 people carried out by YouGov on behalf of Friends Life showed that almost two-thirds of women have never taken out life cover. For men the figure is four in ten.1
• The same YouGov research revealed that while savings priorities differ slightly between the genders, retirement planning comes behind not just the mortgage and household bills, but also other plans like holidays in both men and women’s lists of priorities.
• Women hold only 42% of Friends Life’s 225,000 critical illness policies but they made 51% of the claims in 2012.2

Situation critical
The differences in figures for life cover and critical illness cover may have some link to discrepancies in earnings between the genders. But of course, there’s more to these products than just making up for the loss of an income. In difficult circumstances, a lump sum benefit can be helpful for all sorts of purposes previously not considered.

With women more likely than men to make a critical illness claim, the potential importance of that cover is made even clearer. Whether the reticence of some women to take out cover is to do with earnings or just a traditional reluctance to look into financial protection, it’s clear that the protection industry could – and should – be doing more to engage with its female customers.

Pensions and other priorities
Looking at saving for the future, in the research essentials such as household bills and repaying the mortgage and other loans came out as the highest priorities. That’s as you might expect, but what’s more interesting are the next most highly prioritised saving needs – holidays (18% of both men and women), general savings (18% of men, 15% of women) and home improvements (15% of men, 17% of women).

For women, these were all seen as more important than planning for retirement, with just 13% prioritising their pension plans. And with only 16% of males placing a priority on retirement, holidays and general savings appear more important to males as well.

It’s understandable that bills and mortgages top the list of priorities, but the wider figures are another example of the population’s general lack of preparation for retirement, and also provide more evidence that the industry needs to find new ways of engaging people with this topic.

With many people already facing a pension shortfall, the UK faces a real danger of seeing more and more people reaching retirement age without the financial security they hoped for, or indeed expected. No one’s suggesting people shouldn’t be planning holidays, but the long-term future can’t be put to one side forever – and providers, advisers and the industry as a whole must continue to do their utmost to get this message across in ways that engage the public.

1. Research of 2000 people conducted by YouGov on behalf of Friends Life
2. Analysis of Friends Life critical illness claims for 2012


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