Posted on 21 March 2012.
Tell us mums something we don’t know: more needs to be done to prevent the damange taking a maternity breaks inflicts on our savings and pensions.
Research by Friends Life – Visions of Britain Pensions: The Solutions 2020 – has shown that despite an increase in female representation on the board of the UK’s largest companies (my blog about this here) little was being done to minimise the damage of women taking a career break to start a family
Of course if you are a (paid) working woman with a family you’ll know that the Friends Life exposed “a worrying number of women who were less clued up about pensions than their male counterparts”.
Amost half of women do not save into an employer-sponsored pension scheme while a further one in ten are unsure if they save at all.
Kim Clarke, head of human resources at at Friends Life, said employers were good at considering the short-term financial impact of female employees starting a family by providing flexible working practices but she warned they also needed to consider the long-term implications
She explaines: “When women return to work they often go back part time in the first instance, meaning that the percentage of their salary that they can save is much smaller, while at the same time their outgoings have increased. Unless drastic changes are made, many women may find that starting a family could negatively affect their retirement pot.”
Clarke is pointing out that its the missed National Insurance payments and pension contributions that can really impact on us.
Friends Life says fresh thinking is still needed, but it appears some companies in the financial services industry are already doing just that. Although at the moment it’s only at the top end. F
For example Duncan Lawrie Private Bank has created a repayment holiday facility for itss female entrepreneurs.
It has agreed to give special terms on existing loan facilities to help female entrepreneurs keep their businesses running during maternity leave
Female clients of Duncan Lawrie Private Bank will be “offered the opportunity to suspend making interest payments on loans during their pregnancy and after the birth of a child, to help ease financial pressure on their business until they resume full earning capacity.”
However that’s entrepreneurs, what can the rest of us do? I asked two inspirational mummy contacts of mine who have both recently set up their own businesses and both have two children (each) what women should do.
Philippa Gee of Shropshire-based Philippa Gee Wealth Management says those who have not yet started a family need to think about the costs and prepare for them, they should also brace themselves for the emotional costs. Getting your head around the money situation can help you focus on what plans you need to make.
Childcare: The incredible cost of childcare, the fact that children often catch bugs and therefore you may have to take extra time off work to take care of them and the ongoing additional costs.
Career moves: Consider particularly what happens when you move away from family to pursue your career; while this can function well when work is your focus, when you need support in caring for your child/children you are then so exposed to needing extra time off work, yet to move back to where your family are located may well mean a subsequent drop in salary – it’s about weighing about up all aspects, but really think carefully about what support you might need in the future, as moving house is an expensive business and one to factor in
Plan ahead: The solution is to plan as far in advance as possible, the more you can do to push yourself up the career ladder (if career is a focus for you) before you plan to start a family, the better.
The ideal is to find a role that is as flexible as possible. The more you can do to create a role that suits you ideally, the better prepared you will be, and for many this means starting their own business, working on a self employed basis and/or launching a consultancy.
However, all this takes time to set up, which is why you need to plan as early as possible to begin this venture, rather than having to face such a mammoth task when you just returning from maternity
It may be boring, but also you need to save as much as you possibly can, as children can often cost far more than you can ever imagine and keep that money available.
Pensions are obviously of critical importance in terms of attaining your retirement goals, however putting all your financial resources into a pension is the wrong approach, as you need funds that are as accessible as possible. Using Cash ISAs can be one good approach for many as it means that the money should be available, unless you tie it up in a fixed rate, and you don’t have to pay tax on the interest
“Above all,” she says, “while you can plan as much as possible, keep your options open and enjoy the life changing experiences that lie ahead. ”
Melanie Bien, mortgage and property specialist, says: “With so many pressing financial concerns when you have a young family, pension planning is often shelved as a luxury you simply can’t afford. Yet planning for your retirement – and putting money aside for that – is crucial.
“Most new mums have to cope with a reduced income – both on maternity leave and afterwards, even if they go back to work – so making ends meet is a struggle. But in the scheme of things, this is only for a few years while you could be spending many years in retirement on a reduced income.”
“Don’t get too worried about it as that won’t help anyone but bear in mind that there will be a shortfall in your retirement savings which will need making up when you get back to work.”
No doubt I will be writing about this more in the future. If you’ve any advice or needing any – comment or ask away…