Men vs. Women: Do we save differently?

  •  By
  •  Murray Humphrey

Men and women. In many ways, we're the same. Yet in others, we couldn't be more different. It's a topic that has been endlessly debated since... well forever, and at Penfold, we decided to do a little investigating. After reading some thought-provoking stories on how men and women spend differently, we were curious: what about how we save?

Do men and women use their pensions differently? If so, what does this tell us about gender differences? We spoke to a psychologist to find out.

How do men and women save?

As with any investigation, our first step in tackling this question was looking at the data. We began by taking a peek at Penfold savers - how do our male and female customers approach their savings? The numbers threw up some intriguing results.

In 2020, women contributed on average, 28% less to their pension fund every month than men. The only months where women saved more were December and March, where their contributions overtook men by 15%.

Interesting. This means that women tend to save on a more ad-hoc basis. Men, conversely, opt for a more steady, regular approach to saving - putting a similar amount aside for their pension month after month, year after year.

It's also worth noting precisely when women's contributions overtook mens': December and March. Perhaps this tells us that women are more tactical in their saving, adding larger, one-off top-ups into their pension around key dates - namely Christmas and the end of the tax year.

To dive a little deeper, we spoke to psychologist Rob Stewart.

"Men and women’s spending habits differ greatly so it's no huge surprise that so to do their saving habits."
"There is some research that suggests men think more strategically long-term about wealth, whereas women think strategically long-term about life. Therefore men may focus on putting money aside and seeing their pension increase. Whereas women may focus on their more immediate future, for example, their children’s needs and hold back current funds in the present for shorter-term important goals."

Ok so for men, a pension is about building money for tomorrow. For women, today comes first - they eschew building wealth to deal with the here and now. How does this relate to how men and women think?

“Men can be more compartmentalised in their thinking in comparison to women who generally have more psychological flexibility. This gives them the ability to approach their saving habits differently and put chunks aside at ad-hoc times. Whereas men may need to know that a regular payment is set up and doesn’t need thinking about."

Got it. Men want things to be consistent whereas women deal with life's variables and react. Let's look at a real-world example.

Erin Christy is a Penfold saver. She runs her own Baby Sensory group in Hampshire and set up her self-employed pension last year. We asked her why she pays into her pension on an irregular basis.

“I save ad-hoc amounts into my pension every month because I’m self-employed. I can’t commit to a regular monthly amount because I have so many other priorities to consider – my home, my children, my business. For example, over the last year, I’ve obviously had to pause my Baby Sensory groups during the pandemic."

A great example of how, for women, pension contributions are just a part of the story. Next up, let's examine which kind of pension plan each gender picks.

How do men and women invest?

Another way that men and women invest differently is their attitude to risk. When we looked at how each gender varies by pension risk level, we found that women generally opt for low or medium risk in comparison to men. So, what does this mean?

Men focus on putting money aside to grow. Women focus on their immediate future.

At Penfold, we offer 4 standard pension funds that vary by risk. The lower risk plans are made up of 'safer' investments - think government gilts and fixed-income bonds. These funds are built to offer a steadier, safer investment - trading potential growth for peace of mind, with a lower likelihood of the value of your pension pot dropping significantly.

Of course, our higher-risk funds have the opposite goal. They invest in more volatile investments that have a higher upside with more potential for growth - meaning you're more likely to see your investments dip. Back to men and women.

Our highest risk level fund is made up of 70% men vs just 30% women - quite a stark difference. Is there any reason why men seem more comfortable with more risky investments?

Here's what Penfold saver Erin Christy had to say:

“I opted for the medium-level risk fund when joining Penfold because I naturally opt for safer investments. But I do wish I had the confidence and the knowledge to be able to invest in a higher-risk fund. I think women tend to naturally put themselves down, not prioritising themselves and their future.”

This raises an interesting point. Does women's lack of confidence in higher risk investing come from a wider problem in financial education in the UK? Or is this a social issue, with women wanting to make sure there's some money around for their loved ones, no matter what?

“As women, we instinctively put other things above our own future – other people tend to come first. I think it’s also down to education – I was never taught how to manage my money, how to prioritise my future as a woman such as protecting our pensions during maternity leave for example. I stopped paying in altogether while I was off with both my children – I was too focused on how I was going to financially navigate their early years to think about my retirement."

Men and women on sustainability

Our final insight courtesy of Penfold savers comes from our sustainable pension plan. This is a plan that invests in companies with a high ESG rating - prioritising the environment, sustainable business practices and socially conscious management.

70% of the savers in our highest risk plan are men.

According to our data, women are more likely to invest sustainably than men: 26% of Penfold’s female users opted for a sustainable pension, compared to just 14% of men.

This is a significant difference, highlighting that rather than seeking maximum growth, women prioritise environmentally-friendly investments that help build a better future for the planet. Another interesting way in which men and women approach saving differently.

How do you feel about the way men and women save? Do the findings in our study reflect your life? Let us know by reaching out on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

Not happy with your pension? Or ready to set one up? Discover what a Penfold pension could do for you.

A photo of Murray Humphrey

Murray Humphrey


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