We use cookies to provide you with a responsive service to make your experience of our website(s) better. Please confirm that you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookies policy.

By continuing to use our website we will assume that you are happy to receive non-privacy intrusive cookies. Please be aware that if you disable cookies some functionality on the site will not work.

Alternatively, read our cookies policy to find out more about our cookie use and how to disable cookies.

Women in drawdown have 37% lower retirement income than men – leaving them £47,000 worse off

April 11, 2018

What is flexi-access drawdown?  Flexi-access drawdown was introduced under the pension freedoms and is a way of taking money out of a defined contribution pension to live on in retirement.  It allows people to keep their pension invested in the stock market and take a taxable income from it at any time.

  • On the third anniversary of the introduction of Pension Freedoms, Zurich UK launches the largest report of its kind on the impact of drawdown on financial and emotional wellbeing
  • Women in drawdown have 37% less annual retirement income than men and would need to find ‘riskier’ investments to keep pace
  • The study also reveals the emergence of a new ‘gender drawdown gap’ that is potentially putting more women at risk of running out of cash
  • Findings come as FCA review reveals drawdown sales are twice that of annuity sales, with more decisions taken on a non-advised basis

Women in drawdown face a 37% shortfall in their annual retirement income compared to men, leaving them more than £47,000 worse off, according to a new report Drawdown: Is it working for consumers? from Zurich UK. The study also warns of a potential new gender gap in drawdown, with a range of factors including lack of advice, placing more women at risk of outliving their savings.

The report found men in drawdown have an average pension pot of £212,000, which at a 3% yield secures an annual income of £6,360. Women have an average pension pot of £132,000, equating to an income of just £3,990. This means women have £2,370 less per year and would need to find riskier investments yielding 5% to match the retirement income of their male counterparts.  Longer life expectancy also means they need to stretch out their pot over a longer period.  A woman retiring at aged 65, can expect to receive £47,400 less income over a typical 20 year retirement[1]

The report - the first and largest study of its kind to explore the impact of drawdown on almost 750 people since the pension freedoms – also reveals the potential emergence of a new ‘gender drawdown gap’.  It found that 41% of women switching into drawdown have no investment experience compared to 29% of men. Women are also more likely to never review and adjust their investments in drawdown (17% vs 10%) and twice as likely (13% vs 6%) to never check the performance of their portfolio.

The findings from Zurich UK come as the FCA’s review reveals drawdown sales are now twice that of annuity sales. The FCA also found some consumers are not fully engaging with the guidance available from pension providers, potentially putting themselves at risk of harm.

Rose St Louis of Zurich UK comments:Women already face barriers to securing a comfortable retirement income, and it’s no longer just down to the pay gap or career breaks. Pension freedom has given people far greater choice in how they access and spend their retirement savings, but there are clearly unintended consequences emerging. For women, a smaller pot at retirement combined with a longer life expectancy means investing wisely is crucial. If consumers are less engaged with their pension then they are at risk of making poorer decisions that could result in a lower income, or even outliving their savings. For both men and women, the need for financial advice and guidance in retirement is greater than ever.”

The report also found gaps in the guidance being sought, with women five times more likely than men to rely on their partner (22% vs 4%) – potentially leaving them more vulnerable, should their significant other pass away or lose mental capacity. Furthermore, fewer than a third (32%) of women are getting ongoing financial advice, yet reported lower levels of confidence in handling drawdown without it.

Nevertheless, the study reveals the overall popularity of drawdown. Eight in ten (81%) people who have moved into drawdown since the pension reforms would make the same decision again.

Other areas of concern highlighted in the Drawdown report include:

  • The ‘first-time investor’ gap: there is a clear gap in the take-up of advice and guidance among first-time investors. A third of consumers (32%) making up the highest proportion of those in drawdown, have never actively invested in the stock market. Despite this, 41% have not received guidance and are either not currently receiving advice or have never received advice.
  • The ‘sustainability’ gap: there was initial evidence that consumers could be making poor choices over their withdrawal strategy. Two in five (41%) of those in drawdown are withdrawing the same amount regardless of how the stock market has performed



Notes to editors

The study is based on a YouGov survey of a UK sample of 742 people who have moved into drawdown since the pension freedoms were introduced in April 2015.  The survey was carried out between 14th December 2017 and 24th January 2018.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Teamspirit PR

020 7360 7878 /


About Zurich

Zurich in the UK

Zurich provides a suite of general insurance and life insurance products to retail and corporate customers.

The UK General Insurance division supplies personal, commercial and local authority insurance through a variety of distribution channels. Specialist student and young professional insurance provider Endsleigh has been wholly-owned by Zurich since 2007 and remains the only insurance brand recommended by NUS. Endsleigh offers a range of motor, home, travel and gadget cover and more information can be found here.

Zurich’s UK Life business* offers a range of personal protection, pensions and investment policies available through financial intermediaries. UK life also provides protection policies for the corporate market available through employee benefit consultants.

Based at over 20 locations all across the UK - with large sites in Birmingham, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Farnborough, Glasgow, London, Swindon and Whiteley - Zurich employs approximately 7,000 people in the UK.

Corporate Responsibility is an integral part of how Zurich does business, understanding the need to set and maintain high standards of integrity towards customers, employees, local communities and the environment. Zurich is a member of 'Business in the Community' and was also one of the first recipients of the Business in the Community's ‘Community Mark’. This award is the UK's only national standard that publicly recognises best practice in community investment which, in Zurich's case, is mainly delivered by the Zurich Community Trust, the charitable arm of Zurich in the UK. The Zurich Group takes part in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and is a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact.   

Zurich Globally

Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) is a leading multi-line insurer that serves its customers in global and local markets. With more than 53,000 employees, it provides a wide range of general insurance and life insurance products and services. Zurich’s customers include individuals, small businesses, and mid-sized and large companies, including multinational corporations, in more than 170 countries. The Group is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, where it was founded in 1872. The holding company, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd (ZURN), is listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and has a level I American Depositary Receipt (ZURVY) program, which is traded over-the-counter on OTCQX. Further information about Zurich is available at

*Zurich’s UK Life business is operated primarily through two entities: Zurich Assurance Ltd and Sterling ISA Managers Limited. Zurich Assurance Ltd is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Sterling ISA Managers Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

[1] ONS National Life Tables, UK 2014-2016 - A woman aged 65 can expect to live a further 20.94 years