Gen X women facing particular challenges to save for retirement

  • New report warns that many Gen Xers are not financially prepared for retirement, with nearly 1 in 3 at significant risk of having inadequate incomes in later life.
  • Gen X women face particular challenges in retirement, with 1 in 6 having no pension savings at all.
  • This is mainly due to the extra burden of care many Gen X women face and the impact this has on their employment.

Among other issues, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, high housing costs, job insecurity, increasing caring responsibilities and low increases in wage rates have left many Gen Xers, (those born between 1965 and 1980), relatively unprepared for retirement and struggling to afford to save more, finds new research from the International Longevity Centre (ILC) and Phoenix Group.

The report Slipping between the cracks? Retirement income prospects for Generation X, published by the ILC, with the support of Phoenix Group last week, calls for urgent support to help this group set to retire over the next 10-27 years.

According to the research, a worrying number of Gen Xers have no pensions at all. In particular, this is the case for as many as 1 in 6 female Gen Xers, who face particular challenges in preparing to retirement:

  • Gen X women are more than twice as likely to work part-time than men (26% vs 10%) and 3.5 times more likely to have taken a career break (24% vs 6%).
  • They are also almost twice as likely to have low incomes (<£15,000) than men (28% vs 15%), which may hinder their ability to save more.
  • This disparity is likely driven by differences in the provision of care as Gen X mothers are more than 4 times as likely to have taken a career break (27% vs 6%) and more than 3 times as likely to work part-time (31% vs 9%) than fathers.
  • Women are also the main providers of care to adults among this age cohort, making up 3 in 5 Gen X carers.
  • Adult care responsibilities may further restrict the employment of female carers to a greater extent than male carers, as shown by the fact Gen X female carers are nearly twice as likely to work part-time (25% vs 13%) and are more than twice as likely to have taken a career-break (26% vs 12%) than Gen X male carers.

In recognition of International Women’s Day, ILC and Phoenix Group are calling for policymakers to support Gen X women to save more for retirement by:

  • Requiring employers to make all job arrangements flexible by default so that female employees can alter their working patterns throughout their lives.
  • As a starting point, carers’ leave should be paid for at least 5 days; it would also be beneficial to increase the paid leave entitlement (over time) to 10 days, alongside a longer period of unpaid leave of up to six months.

Sophia Dimitriadis, Research Fellow at ILC and author of the report, commented:

“Gen X women disproportionately struggle to save, with many finding it difficult to juggle care responsibilities with work, making them less able to afford to save as much as they need to.

Many also feel too overwhelmed with the multiple priorities they are juggling to think about retirement.

We urgently need to make it easier for people to combine caring responsibilities with work. Enhancing access to flexible work opportunities can play a key part.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that far more jobs can be done on a flexible basis than we previously thought. There is no better time to require all jobs to be flexible on a default basis.”

Andy Curran, CEO Savings and Retirement at Phoenix Group, said:

“It’s clear we need to take urgent action to help improve the future of all Gen Xers who are struggling to save for retirement, but especially women who are more likely to have taken career breaks and be lower earners, and therefore have less saved than men for their retirement. Government, employers and the regulators all have a part to play in ensuring GenX women don’t fall through the cracks as they head to later life.”


The findings are ILC calculations based on nationally representative YouGov survey responses of 6035 UK adults aged 40-55 (collected online between 13 – 24 November 2020). Please note, the statistic of 1 in 3 Gen Xers being at significant risk of having inadequate incomes in later life is based on ILC’s own calculations. All references and methods are available in the full report.

The Slipping between the cracks: Retirement income prospects of Generation X report has been supported by Phoenix Group: