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Par for La Course – the parallel between women’s money and sport

Part 6 of our What How When, Money series – part of our Financially Fearless initiative. We dive into the parallels between women’s money and sport and the 3 tips you can use to close gender gaps.

Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

You’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard the name Demi Vollering.

Three weeks ago, Vollering won cycling’s most prized possession, the Maillot Jaune (the Yellow Jersey), in La Course – the women’s one-day equivalent of the 21-day world-famous Tour de France.

But women’s cycling still feels like a formality, rather than something to be celebrated. And the 20-day racing difference isn’t the only gap pro female riders are fighting for. It’s the right to equal pay.

There’s long been the argument that women’s sport is less popular and less televised, so women would be less likely to earn the same prize money.

But this doesn’t necessarily justify the gap in their base salary.

Cycling’s governing body, the UCI, sets a minimum salary for pro cyclists. In 2020, this was €40,045 for men and €15,000 for women. But in the same year, one in four female pro cyclists reported they didn’t earn anything at all.

And although most women might not face quite the same gaps as pro athletes, we’re not exempt from them.

So what are they and, more importantly, how do we close them?

Although this article provides tips to help you become more money confident, it isn’t personal advice. If you're not sure what's right for your situation, ask for financial advice.

Pro Fact:

The first American to ever win a Tour De France was a woman named Marianne Martin. This was back in 1984 when women had a parallel race to the men. That year the male winner was Laurent Fignon. His prize pot for the overall race totalled $100,000. Marianne’s was $1,000 and a trophy.

What’s the gap: the gender savings gap

Women make brilliant savers. In fact, more of us have an ISA than men.

But women tend to open more Cash ISAs than Stocks and Shares ISAs. Just over three out of four men who paid into a single ISA in 2018/19 chose a Cash ISA, compared to just over four out of five women for example.

It’s important to keep a cash buffer for emergencies in an account you can access easily. We usually suggest three to six months of essential expenditure if you’re in work and one to three years if you’re retired. But beyond that, holding everything in cash could set you back. That’s because of inflation and the effect it has on the buying power of your money.

How to close it: if you have money that you know you won’t need to use for at least the next five years, you could think about investing instead of keeping it in cash. The stock market’s more likely to beat inflation, meaning less of an impact in your buying power. But remember, unlike cash all investments fall as well as rise in value, there’s a risk you could get back less than you put in.

You also have an overall ISA allowance of £20,000 to take advantage of, so if you haven’t used your whole allowance, you could consider opening a Stocks and Shares ISA. Keep in mind that tax rules and allowances can change and benefits are dependent on your individual circumstances.

Find out more about a Stocks and Shares ISA

One option is to invest in funds where your money is pooled together with other investors. The fund manager will then invest it on your behalf across a variety of companies and different parts of the world. It’s a useful strategy that means you’re not leaving all your eggs in one basket.

Diversification – the investor’s tool we all need to talk about

Pro tip: if you’re unsure about where to start when it comes to building your investments, you can use our Learn pages to get started with investing.

What’s the gap: the impacts of a career break

Whether you’re a pro athlete or not, career breaks sometimes can’t be avoided.

It could be illness or injury, starting or growing a family, or even caring for a loved one that means we take time out of work. Women face a 15.5% wage disparity compared to men. Those who do return to work after a career break might find they can only do so part-time. Our finances can take a hit. Especially when it comes to later life.

How to close it: make sure you’re contributing as much as you can afford into your workplace pension. Your employer could match or even exceed your contributions. And if they don’t? You’ll still be paying in what you can afford. You’ll also take advantage of the government’s tax relief on those contributions. But remember, a pension is designed for later life and usually can’t be accessed until age 55 (rising to 57 in 2028).

In order to receive the full state pension, you need to have 35 qualifying years on your National Insurance record. If you have between 10 and 35 qualifying years, you’ll receive a proportion of the full amount, and you won’t qualify for anything if you have less than 10 years on your record. If you took a career break and didn’t contribute or receive credits towards your National Insurance record, you can pay voluntary contributions to fill any gaps. It’s possible to take advantage of this up to six years after taking a break. This can help to increase your future State Pension payments.

But keep in mind, not everyone will benefit from voluntary contributions, so you’d need to contact the Future Pension centre to find out your status first.

Find out more about the state pension and what it means for your retirement

What’s the gap: the Pension Gap

It’s no surprise that women are more likely to face lower pensions compared to men, but career gaps and pay gaps are only half the story.

We’re more likely to live longer, so we need more in our pension pots than men to see us through later life. But often we have less – women have on average £35k in their pensions at retirement, one fifth of the average for men of the same age.

How to close it: if you’ve taken full advantage of the benefits of paying into your workplace or personal pensions, there are other ways you can save for retirement.

One option could be a Lifetime ISA (LISA).

Like any other ISA, the LISA fits into your yearly £20,000 personal ISA allowance. And it has some great benefits.

The government will give you a 25% bonus on anything you pay in up to the annual allowance of £4,000. Which works out as a potential £1,000 bonus every tax year if you add the full £4,000.

You can also take advantage of tax-free withdrawals when you’re using the money to purchase your first home or after age 60.

But there are some things to keep in mind – you can only open a LISA between the ages of 18-39, and you can only contribute until you’re 50. If you’re withdrawing before the age of 60, for any reason other than buying an eligible first home, you’ll usually pay a 25% government withdrawal charge, so you could get back less than you put in. Money in a LISA could also impact your current or future entitlement to any means-tested state benefits, whereas these are not generally affected by money in a pension until you reach pension age.

Find out more about the LISA

How you can help to beat the gaps

Want to share your own story of how you’ve closed a gender financial gap, or how you’re working towards it? Your story could inspire other women.

  • Email your entry to mystory@hl.co.uk. If we think your story could help other women like you, we’ll get in touch with you to ask if we can share it in one of our articles, or on our social media channels.

We’re committed to money equality. That’s why we created Financially Fearless, designed for women, by women. We’re helping to close the gaps by focusing on the solutions.

Sign up to Financially Fearless

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Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

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