Women Suffer Financially Thanks To Divorce Pension Gap

The average married couple over 50 has three times the pension wealth of the average divorced woman, analysis from Royal London insurance found.

Married couples aged over 50 have amassed £454,000 in pension wealth on average compared with £131,000 for the average divorced woman while divorced men in the same age group have pension wealth of around £235,000 and average property wealth of £191,000, Royal London said.

Royal London said it is not the case that divorced women have made up for a lack of pension wealth by accumulating greater property wealth. This is despite major changes to legislation were introduced in the early 2000s which were designed to make it easier for couples to share pension rights.

The average married couple over 50 has double the housing wealth of the average divorced woman of the same age – at £359,000 for married couples compared with £169,000 for divorced women.

Former pensions minister Steve Webb commented on the report that women are ‘ending up as the poor relations when it comes to pensions wealth in later life. When couples split up there is an understandable focus on family issues and on highly visible assets such as the family home.’

“But very often one partner will have pension rights which are less visible but can be just as valuable and people need to take expert financial advice on this crucial issue.

“For example, someone with long service in a final-salary type pension can have rights worth hundreds of thousands of pounds which can be a crucial part of a fair divorce settlement,’ he said.

The research was based on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Wealth and Assets Survey, looking at over-50s divorcees and married couples across Britain. Nicknamed ‘Divorce Month’, January sees a spike in divorce amongst married couples after the Christmas period. Relationship charity Relate typically reports a 24% rise in inquiries from those with relationship worries during January, as well as a 58% increase in web traffic to its site.

The Ministry of Justice last week revealed that an unlucky 13 people even applied for a divorce on Christmas Day using its online system, underlining the growing trend for a break-up following the festive break, with the peak ‘divorce day’ as January 7 when most people return to work.