LIFE HONESTLY

Do women save less than men? 

New figures suggest that there is a gender savings gap in the UK. Audrey Gillan investigates why 

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By Audrey Gillan on

It’s mind-boggling to see it written down, but men have almost twice as much money put away as women – £74,000 versus £39,000 (this sum includes home equity as well as bank accounts and investments). That’s according to new statistics released by Barclays, which reveal a vast and startling differential in the savings of men and women.

The figures were part of a wider savings survey conducted by YouGov in August this year, in which 2,085 adults were questioned about their finances. It revealed that only 33 per cent of women have long-term savings as opposed to 47 per cent of men. Women are also less likely to see themselves as financially knowledgeable, and they feel less confident abut their financial future. Women are, however, more likely to have short-term savings. 

The gender pay gap is a major culprit for those discrepancies but reflecting on the findings, Clare Francis, savings and consumer expert with Barclays, says that perhaps traditional gender roles could be responsible too.

“If it is a joint household but with separate accounts, the wife is often responsible for the day-to-day running of the family, covering Christmas and birthdays. If a man has money then it is put away for longer-term stuff. Of course the pay discrepancy between the genders is another factor. If women are in jobs that pays less then they have less spare to save,” she says. 

Erika Nilsson-Humpherey, who left the finance industry to set up her own business styling men working in the City hello.dappad.com, agrees: “The gender pay gap is a big factor but so too is stereotyping and gender classification. Men think they have to save more to provide for a family.” 

Women already earn less, so have less to save and those tiny incremental expenses – tampons, tights, beauty products – added up over a lifetime could be a small fortune

Francis also posits that women prioritise differently, spending more on luxuries: “Perhaps women generally will spend more on non-essentials – clothes, things for their home, what’s surrounding them matters more to them than men which reflects them having less money to save.”

Women already earn less, so have less to save and those tiny incremental expenses – tampons, tights, beauty products – added up over a lifetime could be a small fortune. It’s not all shoes and handbags, but women do spend more on clothes and beauty products than men; this week, a Radio 4 Woman’s Hour poll discovered that women spend more than £5 more per month on their appearance than men (£73.47 vs £68.30).

I have always been a saver. I grew up in the West of Scotland, with a severe Presbyterian work ethic, the daughter of a woman who managed all the household finances, read the business pages of the newspapers, and squirrelled away as much as she could. I’m in my forties, single, have no kids and my mortgage is pretty low. Yet even though I have some money tucked away, I won’t take risks with it, and currently I am not adding much to it.

It’s difficult to talk about the gender savings gap without feeling like you’re veering into gender stereotypes but aversion to risk is something Sarah Pennells of the financial website savvywoman.co.uk recognises. “Women are more reluctant to invest because they don’t trust some financial companies and hate being given the hard sell. They’re often not sure how to get started, understandably,” she says. “I find that women tend to be more put off investing by the jargon and are more concerned about losing money than men are. The financial industry is bad at talking to – when I set up my website, I talked to lots of financial companies, some of which told me “our customers are men” – and didn’t seem bothered about talking to women.”

Whatever the reasons – sexism, risk averseness, stereotypical gender roles, the cost of tights and tampons – there is a vast gap in the wealth of men and women, not just in what we’re earning, but also in terms of what we’re putting away. And when you consider the implications of that – women being forced to stay in unhappy or abusive relationships because they can’t afford a way out; poverty in later life – it’s obvious that the gender savings gap is just another gap we must bridge, as soon as we possibly can.  

@audreygillan

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