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UK Adult Financial Wellbeing Survey 2021 Gender Report

Evidence type: Insight i


Financial wellbeing is about being financially resilient, confident and empowered. The Money and Pensions Service set out five Agendas for Change in its UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing 2020-2030, each with its own National Goal for 2030. Gender is one of the cross-cutting issues identified in the Strategy when monitoring outcomes against these Agendas for Change.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, there were already gaps in the financial wellbeing experiences of men and women, and these gaps have remained or widened since the start of the pandemic.

The Adult Financial Wellbeing Survey 2021 provides an opportunity to explore differences between men and women on three of the Agendas for Change measures (Nation of Savers, Credit Counts and Future Focus) as well as a range of other, related measures that are available in the data. The report refers to ‘Struggling’ and ‘Squeezed’ segments which it defines as the least financially resilient and high-risk segments respectively.

The study

This report describes the results of analysis by the Money and Pensions Service of the 2021 UK-wide Adult Financial Wellbeing Survey to explore the ways in which women’s financial wellbeing differs from men’s based on the measures defined in the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing’s Agendas for Change and related measures. Measures analysed for the report relate to:

  • Income and employment
  • Pensions and retirement planning
  • Savings
  • Bill payment and credit use
  • Confidence and satisfaction

The 2021 Adult Financial Wellbeing Survey was a survey by Critical Research of 10,306 adults (ages 18 and over) living in the UK. Data were collected using a mixed-mode approach between July and September 2021: mainly via online panels, with additional online survey completion via postal invites and paper survey completion via postal invites (postal invites returned a total response rate of 4.5%). Over-sampling of the devolved nations, quota sampling and stratified geodemographic profiling were undertaken and the final data were weighted to be representative of the UK adult population along geographic, demographic and socio-economic dimensions and internet usage.

Key findings

This study reports differences that are statistically significant where p<.05.

  • Income and employment: 62% of women had personal annual incomes of less than £17,500 and 11% had incomes of over £35,000, compared with 42% and 25% of men respectively. 35% of women were in full-time employment compared with 54% of men. Among lone parents, 38% of women were in full-time employment compared to 78% of men.
  • Pensions and retirement planning: 41% of women and 57% of men say they understand enough about pensions to make decisions about saving for retirement. 60% of women and 44% of men say they do not have a plan for their finances in retirement.
  • Savings: 46% of women and 38% of men said they have less than £1,000 in savings. 27% of women and 21% of men said they couldn’t pay an unexpected bill of £300 without borrowing. In the subset of working-age adults in the ‘Struggling’ and ‘Squeezed’ segments, 54% of women and 59% of men said they saved most months or ever month.
  • Bill payment and credit use: 51% of women and 49% of men said they struggle to keep up, are falling behind or have fallen behind with their commitments. 15% of women and 19% of men said they often borrow to buy food/pay bills.
  • Confidence and satisfaction: 48% of women and 42% of men said they did not feel confidence managing their money. 70% of women and 62% of men said they were not satisfied with their overall financial circumstances.

Points to consider

  • Methodological strengths/weaknesses: While the report does not cite confidence intervals or statistical significance testing, further information provided by the authors confirms that all differences that are reported are statistically significant at the 95% level of confidence (p<.05).
    • Although the overall sample is large, the sample sizes that relate to specific findings are not given.
    • The technical report notes that non-internet users are under-sampled in the data and that people completing paper-based surveys may have had a different survey experience.
    • The report identifies correlational links between gender and financial wellbeing only, not causal links.
  • Relevance: The findings for the National Goal measures are not specifically noted, however three measures are indirectly covered in the report (Nation of Savers, Credit Counts, Future Focus).
    • The study is likely to be of relevance to researchers, policy-makers and practitioners who are interested in the links between gender and range of measures which relate to financial wellbeing among UK adults.
  • Generalisability/transferability: The patterns of findings are likely to generalise well to contexts outside of the UK with similarly advanced economies and comparable social structures.
Contact information

Money and Pensions Service, Holborn Centre, 120 Holborn, London, EC1N, 2TD, 01159 659570, Money and Pensions Service