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The number of women working past 70 has doubled – do you want to join them?

old woman marketI try not to picture myself in old age: middle age is bad enough. I suppose I’ll have many more wrinkles, a lot more backache and (hopefully) a couple of grandchildren running around. In the best-case scenario, I’ll be drinking beers on a beach in Thailand. Let’s not visit the worst-case scenario. In any event, I certainly don’t expect to be slogging away at a 9 to 5 job.

Obviously I’ll still be writing. I may even be a best-selling novelist by then – let’s hope it doesn’t take until my eighties. That’s a different story though. Choosing to work because you love your job is one thing, having to work because you can’t support yourself is quite another.

Could it happen to you? Let’s hope not, but over one in ten working women are now leaving their jobs after the age of 70. That figure has doubled in the last four years, so it’s a rapidly growing trend. To be fair, more men are also staying employed until past 70, says finance firm Hargreaves Lansdown which crunched the numbers. But the increase in that group is not as marked as for women.

Why is this happening to us ladies? Essentially because it’s women who stop working to raise children or care for relatives. Less income means less saving and no job means zero pension contributions from an employer. Then, if we return to work, it’s probably part-time or low-paid, meaning again less pay and fewer benefits.

The answer, boringly, is to put away money now. It doesn’t have to be a lot because, as that supermarket reminds us, every little helps. Plus it’s churlish to turn down free money. The government gives you back the tax you’ve already paid on the cash – so a £500 saving actually costs you only £400 if you’re a basic rate taxpayer.

Topping up your work pension is one idea. Within your allowances of course – the lower of 100% of your earnings or £40,000. Even if you’re not earning enough to be a taxpayer (that’s me) you’re entitled to put up to £2,880 into a pension a year and get the 20% tax back. I’ve just done that for my Sipp (self-invested personal pension) and got it bumped up to £3,600 in total. That’s a nice return even before any investment growth!

So why not skip the flowers and chocolates and pass around the hat instead on Mothers’ Day? Your relatives may raise their eyebrows but money invested now should reap rewards later. Now there’s a gift that keeps on giving: to your seventies and beyond.

For help on getting a pension outside work, see our guide here.

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Monday, 17 December 2018