If you just answered yes to that question, chances are you are female.
There are many great aspects about a career in medicine or dentistry but for my mind, one of the greatest is the knowledge that it is widely accepted, as it should be, that men and women can perform the role equally well and will receive equal income and pension contributions for comparable work.
Some would argue medicine especially is being increasingly feminised as shown by a recent study showing only 2,905 males students embarking on their medical degrees in the UK in 2019/20, compared to 4,600 females*.
Why do women generally have less pension provision?
Again and again I see women’s overall pension pots being smaller than those of their partners or male colleagues. This includes those members of the NHS pension scheme. Of course there are exceptions, especially when couples are both medics or dentists.
The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) ** have recently researched this area and have identified 12 perils and pitfalls impairing women’s financial security. Thankfully, many of them don’t affect the ‘average’ medic or dentist, but some glaringly can and do.
The biggest threats to women’s pensions are:
1) The motherhood and caring penalty – While I know many fathers share the parenting role, the majority of the caring responsibilities does still fall to women, meaning they forgo time at work and career progression at pace in favour of raising children, leading to pension deficits compared to male counterparts, and graduation debt burden taking far longer to pay off.
2) Divorce and separation – The shortfall in assets and property ownership after divorce compared to the male counterparts is stark. This coupled with point 1 above, means that readdressing a balance in childcare after divorce, if children are involved, is often hard to achieve. Often any maintenance arrangements stop once joint children are through their full-time tertiary education. So women find themselves in their late 40s with a cliff face to climb before they can afford to retire having worked part-time for many years to care for their family.
3) Longevity trap – As we all know, on the whole, women live longer. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)*** women aged 55 now have a 6.2% chance of still being alive at 100. If you are planning on retiring at 60 then that’s a long time your pension income needs to look after you! Also, with living longer comes the seeming inevitability of ill health framing our final years. The average cost of residential care for women aged 65-74 entering a care home is £132,000 (£82,000 for men)****.
Maybe these points are feeling a little too close to home…
How can women safeguard against leaving themselves with a financial / pension shortfall?
We all know the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. The same can be said for addressing a shortfall, spring cleaning your finances and making sure they fit your needs now and into retirement.
Admitting to a professional you haven’t a clue how your NHS pension scheme works or that you have no savings is not as painful as you may think – we’ve seen it all before! You may think it’s easier to stick your head in the sand and just concentrate on the ‘now’ for fear of what you may find – please don’t, you need to act now.
The first step is to be clear about what you already have. An up to date and thorough understanding of the NHS pension scheme benefits you hold is the foundation, but any other debts and assets need to be fully appraised too.
Then looking the problem in the eye and making an achievable plan is key. This process can be confusing and daunting – but you don’t have to do this alone. You won’t be the first woman and you won’t be the last to uncomfortably admit you need some guidance.
Maybe you feel totally up to date but just want a fresh pair of eyes and another opinion.
We are a diverse bunch here at Legal & Medical, with plenty of highly experienced female advisers in our ranks if speaking to another woman would make you feel more comfortable. The important thing is you understand where you are and where you want to be in the future.
We are fully independent, Medical and Dental NHS specialists. The first meeting is at our cost, and without further obligation, so please do get in touch.
Maybe your pension is smaller due to the points raised in this article. Lets us know by leaving a comment below
* Medical and dental intakes – Office for Students
** Securing the financial future of the next generation
***National life tables – life expectancy in the UK – Office for National Statistics
**** Women’s pensions life journey