Gender-specific attitudes to money and why this can impact workplace pensions and savings


Research Cushon undertook earlier this year shows a marked difference between the way men and women view financial services products, especially pensions. Although it’s not altogether clear why these differences exist, the research shows that the way the industry positions and communicates about pensions resonates better with men than with women.

Gender-specific attitudes to money and why this can impact workplace pensions and savings

We can hypothesise as to the reasons for this, but it’s clear enough that if we are to get women more engaged with their finances, especially pensions, we need to be talking to them differently. The message is currently not being heard by over 50% of the population.

What are the main points to consider?

Think about the language

Do pension providers and other financial services organisations use language that men find more comfortable? As expected, there are several studies that suggest that the words we use do matter. For instance, when it was first launched, Diet Coke wasn’t resonating with men at all, but when it was replaced with Coke Zero, men started to buy it. Apparently, men are just not comfortable with the word “diet”.

Another study found that financial services organisations are not communicating some of the most important points in their brand messaging, which for women are trustworthiness, dependability and accessibility.

A good example of failure to communicate these 3 points from a product point of view is the Lifetime ISA (LISA). In our own research from 2021, the vast majority of women (88%) were interested in a product that, with a 25% government bonus, would help them get on the housing ladder. But once they were told it was the LISA, interest levels reduced to 67%.

The top four reasons given for not taking out a LISA were perceived lack of accessibility, not knowing how to go about it, withdrawal penalties and complexity. The design and communication of the LISA doesn’t land well with women.

We have urged government to remove complexity and to reduce the withdrawal charge from 25% to 20% so that it’s not a penalty but rather a repayment of the government bonus where funds are withdrawn, other than for a first home purchase and/or from age 60.

If the LISA is to be as popular as the Help to Buy ISA, these issues really do need to be addressed.

Get rid of jargon

Jargon in pensions must go regardless of who communications are aimed at. It’s a barrier to engagement and does nothing to increase savings habits across the board.

But for women it’s a bigger issue.

Our research found that nearly 61% of women (versus 51% of men), consider information around pensions too complex and full of jargon and it really is stopping them from saving more into their pensions. 56% of women agreed that they would save more in their pension if they understood it better.

And it’s wider than pensions, women are 50% less likely to have investments than men!

Provide relevant context

A lot of women’s careers are different from men’s. They are more likely to be working part-time and have taken career breaks to raise children or care for elderly relatives. This really does matter when we start talking about pensions.

Nearly a third (31%) of women in our research confirmed that they had taken a career break at some point and realised that this has had an impact on their pension savings.

If we want to help women address this, we need to tell them that we understand they might be in this position and tell them about how they can fill the gap or, even better still, start communicating to all women about the potential to contribute more while they are working so that when they do take a career break, they’re not having to play catch up when they return to work.

Make things accessible

This is true for everyone but more so for women. Where the employer has chosen a workplace savings solution, trustworthiness and dependability have been established just by virtue of the fact that the employer has sourced the provider – it must be a credible provider if the employer is offering it as an employee benefit. There is no leg work needed – the employer has already completed some form of market research and due diligence and employees trust their employer.

And where payroll deductions are allowed, saving couldn’t be easier and this is important. 54% of women we surveyed agreed that they would be more likely to save if the money came out directly from their salary.

To round up

The gender pensions gap is now approaching 40% (37.9%), and we need to start working to close it.  Of course there are a number of other reasons for the gap, some of which the government needs to address. But in the meantime, there are ways in which we, pension providers, benefit providers and employers, can empower women to take action themselves. It starts with removing the barriers to engagement.

The author is Steve Watson, head of proposition at Cushon.

This article is provided by Cushon.


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