75 years of the State Pension - how do women fare?

Published  28 September 2023
   3 min read
  • Almost two million women (29%)* say the State Pension would be their only source of income in retirement (compared to 13% of men)
  • Women think they’ll need £1,500 a year less to live on in retirement than men (£1,154 v £1,279 a month)
  • Fewer women than men (42% v 50%) expect to work until their State Pension age 

New research from Royal London, the UK’s largest life, pensions and investment mutual, uncovers how women’s and men’s experiences of the State Pension may differ.

It’s 75 years since the State Pension was launched but, despite changes in the workplace and the introduction of equality legislation, women are more likely to rely on the State Pension as their sole form of income in retirement. The State Pension currently pays £886 a month, for those who are entitled to the full amount under the new State Pension rules.

However, you are only entitled to this amount if you have paid or been credited with 35 years of National Insurance. Royal London’s research showed that almost half of women (49%) did not know this, compared to 40% of men, which is concerning when almost two million women (29%)* say the State Pension will be their only source of income in retirement (compared to 13% of men).

Women are also less likely to say they’d checked their State Pension age (53% of women had checked compared to 58% of men) and less likely to have seen a copy of their State Pension forecast (45% of women compared to 50% of men). The State Pension forecast is important because it shows how much State Pension you’ve built up so far, and what you are on track to receive when you reach State Pension age. However, women who have accessed their State Pension forecast are more likely than men to say it was easy to understand (55% versus 52%).

Women are also more likely to say they’ll need less per month to live on in retirement than men. The average amount suggested by women was £1153.70, whereas men said they’d need £1,279.20 a month, which is a difference of £125.50 per month, or more than £1,500 over the course of a year.

There was also a differing outlook between men and women when asked about their intention to work through until their State Pension age. Half of men (50%) said they were planning to continue to work until their State Pension age compared to two fifths (42%) of women.

Where people planned to retire before their State Pension age there was a distinct difference in how that would be funded. Similar proportions of men and women stated they would fund their living costs prior to their State Pension age through; workplace pensions (47% men and 42% women), cash savings (both 43%) or with a personal pension (27% men and 20% women). However, 28% of men retiring before their State Pension age will use funds from investments compared with 17% of women. Whereas a quarter (25%) of women suggested they intend to access their partners’ pension or savings during that period compared with 15% of men.

Sarah Pennells, consumer finance expert at Royal London said about the research findings:

"The State Pension is the foundation of most people’s income in retirement, but for almost one in three women, it’s their sole form of income. Living on £886 a month isn’t easy – especially during the cost of living crisis. Our research shows a worrying gap between how much women think they need to live off in retirement and how much they will get from their State Pension. Even if women have paid all the required National Insurance contributions women still estimate they’ll need £250 a month more than they’ll get from the State Pension.

"Retirement is meant to be when you have the time to do the things you’d like to do, and for many women the State Pension alone won’t give them the income they’d like. The cost of living crisis is putting extra pressure on household budgets, but relying on the State Pension alone could mean many years of making very tough choices about spending."

Notes to editor

Royal London commissioned a survey by Opinium between 23 and 30 June 2023, with a sample of 4,000 UK Nat rep consumers.

*Weighted calculation: 29% of UK based adult population figure of 53,188,000 = 1,874,877

State Pension:

  • Like the NHS the State Pension as part of the ‘Integrated Social Security System’ which was launched in July 1948, and marked 75 years in place this year. When it first launched, the State Pension amount was one pound and six shillings per week – equivalent of £60.48 in today’s money.
  • For around 60 years, the age that someone could claim the State Pension differed for men and women; men could access at 65 and women at 60. The rises in the State Pension age for women from 2010 meant both could claim their State Pension at age 65 from November 2018.
  • State Pension rules changed significantly in 2016. Changing to what was proposed as a simpler ‘New State Pension’.
  • To qualify for the new State Pension you must have at least 10 years of qualifying National Insurance contributions, but to get the full amount of State Pension a person needs 35 years of qualifying National Insurance contributions.

For further information please contact:

Nicki Parry, PR Manager

About Royal London

Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK, and in the top 25 mutuals globally, with assets under management of £153 billion, 8.6 million policies in force and over 4,100 employees. Figures quoted are as at 30 June 2023. Learn more at royallondon.com.