With thousands of people across the country being automatically enrolled into workplace pensions you might expect the topic to be high on the agenda at home but, new research from NOW: Pensions, reveals that over a third of those in a relationship (36%) have no idea how much their partner has saved for retirement. One in three (29%) admit that they have never even spoken to their other half about how they’ll fund their post-work years.

The research, conducted with 2,156 people in relationships, found that even as retirement draws near, many still avoid having the “pensions chat” or talking about money matters with their partner. In fact, nearly a quarter (23%) of over 55s have never discussed retirement finances with their other half.

Despite the lack of communication around this subject, over a quarter (27%) are concerned that their partner isn’t saving enough for their golden years. Those aged 35 – 44 are particularly worried about this as over a third (35%) say they don’t think their partner is putting enough aside.

What’s mine is yours?

At a time when women make up 47% of the UK workforce, one in five (18%) still expect their partner to fund their retirement, though nearly a fifth (17%) admit they don’t actually know whether their partner will be able to do this. This compares with the 2% of men who expect to live off their partner’s pension pot.

While nearly half (48%) of those surveyed intend to support themselves entirely in retirement, many women take career breaks to have children which can see their retirement savings diminishing in the process. It therefore doesn’t come as a surprise that two in five (42%) men expect to either partially or entirely fund their partner in retirement, though nearly one in five (19%) are concerned that the money they’ve saved won’t be enough for two.

The main reason men say they will be supporting their partner in retirement is because of career breaks for children diminishing retirement savings (51%), followed by their partner not earning enough to save for retirement (38%), and their partner having worked part-time (26%).

Conversely, just 10% of women say they will be either partially or entirely funding their partner in retirement with almost four in ten (38%) saying they are worried that they haven’t saved enough for two. The main reason women say they will be supporting their partner in retirement is that their partner hasn’t earned enough to save for retirement (41%).

Pension tension

One in five (22%) women admit that they would feel resentful if they had to fund their partner in retirement, saying their other half should have saved more in the first place. Men however, are a lot more at ease, with 62% saying they feel relaxed about funding their partner once they’ve left the workforce.

Morten Nilsson, CEO of NOW: Pensions said: “Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best is no way to go about planning your retirement finances. As a couple, regularly reviewing and openly discussing your pension plans will help to avoid a nasty shock.”

Michelle Cracknell, Chief Executive of The Pensions Advisory Service said: “This research draws attention to some of the issues that we hear about on our helpline in respect of partners and their pensions.

“Married women often tell us that they had opted out of all pensions because their husband made all the provision. This may not be the best financial planning and, of course, creates a problem should the marriage break down.

“Another common query from women that we receive through our helpline is what happens on the death of the member. There is a low level of knowledge of the other benefits that a pension scheme provides and many widows struggle to trace their deceased husband’s pension scheme or know what needs to be done or what income to expect.”

“Our tip for couples is for both “to have and to hold” pensions and talk to each other!”

Tips from The Pensions Advisory Service

  • Keep a list of both of your pensions with your other personal papers
  • Check your death benefit both before and after retirement and the eligibility requirements
  • Keep your death benefit nomination form up to date
  • Send change of address cards to your previous employers
  • Check your State Pension entitlement especially with the move away from “Mr & Mrs” pensions to the new state pension (single tier pension – single in name and single in nature)
  • Sit down and write your retirement plans – there are new options and freedoms in respect of your pension but the starting plan is to work out what you want to achieve.