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You might be forgiven for thinking women in their 50s and 60s are starting to wind down, spending less time at work and more time on hobbies and relaxing. But from what we are seeing, this is a stereotype that is quickly becoming outdated.

If anything, we are seeing more women in this age range starting a new chapter in their working lives. Indeed, research shows the employment rate for women aged between 50 and 64 had risen to 68% in 2019, up from 53% in 2000.1

The gender pensions gap and changes to the State Pension age mean many older women will be working out of necessity. Many will not have saved enough for their retirement or will have faced a change of circumstances that means they can’t afford to stop working when they had originally planned.

But whether work is a result of choice or necessity, we’re doing women a huge disservice if we always present the growing number of older women in the workplace as a negative headline.

The advantages of working longer

Some women will continue to enjoy the career they have been in for years and see no reason to stop; others may relish the opportunity to try something different. With the mortgage paid off and childcare bills consigned to history, many older women may find that the financial pressure is off and that they can afford to do something they actually enjoy – or just have the time to focus more on their career. It might be the perfect time to monetize a hobby or start a new business venture. Alternatively, there is the opportunity to retrain and do something entirely different.

Carrying on earning gives women more financial resilience and independence, and that surely can’t be a bad thing? With life expectancy continuing to rise – a 65-year-old woman is now expected to live for a further 21 years2 – there’s a lot to be said for keeping the money coming in as long as you can.

The longer you work, the longer you can hold off taking your pension. A deferred pension has more time to grow and, depending on your income, you can also keep making contributions. When you do eventually start taking your pension, your savings won’t need to last as long either. You may also find it makes sense to defer your State Pension in return for a higher income later on.

The benefits of working into later life aren’t just financial. Those who can carry on working often find that the right job – and the social outlet it provides – improves both their physical and their emotional wellbeing.

A new approach to retirement

The default retirement age of 65 was scrapped in 2011, and women – and men – can stay in employment as long as they are able to, as has always been the case for the self-employed.

Employers have to be more flexible and this, coupled with the pension freedoms (which relaxed the rules around taking income from our retirement savings), means that now more than ever retirement doesn’t have to be an abrupt halt, where you are working one day and retired the next. Instead you can ‘glide’ into retirement, gradually and on your own terms, taking income from your pension as your needs change.

If you are starting a new chapter – rebooting your career after a period away from work, taking on a new role that better suits you, retraining or setting up a new venture, it makes sense to speak to a regulated financial adviser about retirement planning.

A good financial adviser will be able to help you work out your likely retirement income, both as things currently stand and in your new role. They can help you to identify the assets that you hold – which could include property that you own, ISAs and premium bonds, to name a few – and assess whether you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions for a full State Pension. Even the value of your business should be taken into account if you are self-employed. And, if you find out you are not on course for the income you will need when you do eventually slow down, they will be able to offer advice on how you can plug any gaps. After a full analysis of your financial position, the picture is often better than you imagine.

Similarly, if your change of direction is going to give your finances a welcome boost, your adviser can help you put that money to the best use and boost your financial wellbeing, both now and when you do eventually retire.

The value of an investment with St. James's Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds you select and the value can therefore go down as well as up. You may get back less than you invested.


1 Office for National Statistics, LFS: Employment rate: UK: Female: Aged 50-64: %: SA, April 2021

2 Office for National Statistics, National life tables – life expectancy in the UK: 2017 to 2019

  • Financial Adviser
  • Financial Advice
  • Retirement & Pension Planning
  • Retirement Advice

As a Chartered Financial Planner and Fellow of the CII, I have satisfied rigorous criteria relating to professional qualifications and ethical good practice.

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