08 March 2021

Finding financial fairness: supporting women in later life divorce

Divorce can be a costly exercise, especially if a couple have multiple financial assets to consider as they approach retirement. It’s often women who feel the financial burden from a later life divorce.

Mind the gap

Research from 1984 showed that almost half (49%) of the UK population thought that a woman’s ‘place’ was to look after the home and family1. Fortunately, attitudes to women in the workforce have changed drastically since then.

In 2020, the number of women in employment in the UK reached a record high of 72.7%, compared to 80.1% of men; a figure that was just 52.8% when records began in 19712. Despite this progress, the gender pay gap remains a vast 15.5%, with the gap at its widest for women over 403.

The motherhood penalty

Beyond the gender pay gap and the glass ceiling, social inequality has had a lasting effect on the finances of women, especially mothers. Women who take time out of work to raise children, not only have less financial independence as a result, but also face more barriers when returning to work, because of a perceived skills gap, a changing environment and prejudice.

For women who divorce in later life, this inequality is amplified, as they often absorb most of the financial risk.

Waiving rights to pensions

On average, a woman now in her 60s will retire with approximately £51,000 of savings. By comparison, men of this age group will retire on average with the more comfortable sum of £156,000 – triple the wealth4. For a divorced woman, these savings are halved, falling to just £26,1004.

Despite the inequalities women face as a result of financial sacrifices they have endured, almost a quarter of women still choose to waive their rights to their partner’s pension as part of a divorce settlement5. For women who divorce in their 60s, this figure increased to 31%, despite having less time to make up for any shortfall they might experience in income5.

How advisers can help

Only 3% of people seek financial advice when going through a divorce process, but advisers play an essential role in helping a couple find financial fairness5. This support can be particularly beneficial to women, 31% of whom said they were financially worse off in the year following their divorce, compared to just 20% of men5.

  • Develop professional relationships with solicitors

The earlier an adviser can be involved in divorce proceedings, the more value they can add. A solicitor can provide a referral to a divorcing client, so the adviser can engage at a stage where they can help the woman build a stable financial future.

  • Create an environment of trust

Divorce can take a significant emotional toll on clients. An adviser must be sensitive and empathetic to the specific needs and circumstances of each individual client, while providing clear explanations and rationale about the advice process.

  • Identify the financial options that would be right for your client

Tackle the taboo around pension splitting and sharing options, by having open and honest discussions with your client. Understand their unique financial situation and help them visualise the long-term financial impact of their financial decisions.

 

Options for your client

Pension sharing order

One option to divide assets in divorce is a pension sharing order, where pension assets are split between the partners on a basis decided by a court. This creates a pension debit against the member’s pension benefits, matched by a pension credit for their partner.

Pension offsetting

Another option is pension offsetting, where one partner keeps their pension benefits, which means the other is entitled to a greater share of the couple’s remaining assets. Typically, the pension is offset against the value of the family home.

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Get in touch

We specialise in helping advisers support their clients to achieve their financial goals in retirement.

If you’d like to discuss how you can support your client during a later life divorce, please contact your account manager.

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Our references

1 ONS (2019) Women’s labour market participation – Long-term trends in UK employment: 1861 to 2018

2 Catalyst Research (2020) Women in the Workforce – UK

3 ONS (2020) Gender pay gap in the UK: 2020

4 This is MONEY Divorced women reach retirement with just £26,100

5 Opinium Research ran a series of online interviews among a nationally representative panel of 2,008 UK adults aged 50+ who are divorced, from 19 to 23 September 2020