Living without a safety net talks to Cecilia Floren about her fears for the future as part of our ongoing focus on the issues that contribute to the gender pension gap.

Jar with coins in it and a sticker on it saying pensions


Last week, published the findings of its survey on gender and age, sponsored by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. It showed that 50% of women feel they will need to keep working beyond retirement to make ends meet – with 53% of respondents revealing that their pension is just not enough for them to be financially independent. We will be publishing case studies of some of those respondents over the next days. With the cost of living crisis in the news and the focus on the immediate future, we feel it is important to shine a light on the potentially longer-lasting crisis up ahead.

Cecilia Floren is very aware of the need to save more for her pension in order to be financially independent. A single parent, she has two daughters and is supporting her own mother whose pension doesn’t cover her living costs.

Cecilia lives in Hampshire and has two daughters aged 19 and 14. She has both reduced her hours and taken a 1.5 year career break over the course of her working life  in order to care for her children.

Cecilia, who is 45, was living in Kenya for around 10 years until 2017 where she was working as an executive PA and during that time she did not pay any National Insurance contributions. When she came back to the UK she found it hard initially to find a job, especially with two children in tow. She had to take any job she could and worked for a time as a shop assistant until she found a role that was more in line with her previous job.]

For the last three years she has been working in an administrative role in public relations and marketing four days a week and has a second job working at a supermarket to make ends meet.

She pays her pension contributions through auto-enrollment and says her employer has a robust pension scheme, but she hasn’t been able to put any additional money in. She is very aware that she should be saving more for her retirement, but she doesn’t know if she can afford to. The problem is that there is no easy or inexpensive way of finding out what to do. “I am not clued up enough about the whole thing. There is not enough information on how to manage a pension and the information there is is very confusing,” she says.

Over the years she has had several different jobs and paid into several different pension schemes. She says there is conflicting advice on what to do and she is worried about money paid in getting lost. She has been told she needs a financial adviser, but she cannot afford one.

She feels employers and their pension schemes could do more, for instance, organise a session with employees to talk through their options and ‘crunch the numbers’.

At the moment she has no idea what her pension might be, but says she is at an age where she is starting to worry. She recently took out life insurance in case anything happens to her.

Cecilia supports her mother who lives in Kenya and gets a meagre state pension from Sweden. She doesn’t want to be in a similar position when she is older.

She is keen to teach her daughters the importance of financial planning. Her eldest daughter is in Australia and she wants her to avoid the mistakes she made of not paying her National Insurance contributions when she was not in the UK. Cecilia’s experience of being divorced has also shown her that financial independence is vital. “If girls had to think about this early on they could save a few pounds early week so that it became a habit and that could build into a nice safety net,” she says. “They need to understand their choices so they don’t have to think about it later in their lives and wish that they had.”

* has published a free e-book on the issues that contribute to the gender pension gap and what employers are doing to address them.

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