One in three face financial heartache by relying on partner’s pension

15 Nov, 2021
  • Almost one-third of people said they would rely on their partner’s pension in retirement. This includes 23% of men and almost 40% (39%) of women.
  • One fifth (21%) of people were unsure if they would have to rely on their partner in retirement.
  • Almost one quarter (24%) of the 18-24 age group said they thought they would have to rely on a partner’s pension while 43% said they wouldn’t. Older age groups were less confident with 36% of 35-44-year-olds saying they thought they would rely on their partner.
  • London topped the poll with over half (53%) of people saying they expected to rely on their partner’s pension. This compares to just 23% of people in the North-West.

Survey of 2,000 people carried out by Opinium on behalf of HL in September 2021.

Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown:

“Telling a happy couple to consider their finances in the event of a split is hardly romantic but could save a lot of financial heartache in the long run. While it makes sense for couples to share financial responsibilities, leaving long term planning such as a pension primarily in the hands of one partner could leave you financially vulnerable in later life.

If your partner has a much better pension than you then it is tempting to rely on that rather than build your own, especially if you’re on a lower income. However, if you choose to take this approach, you need to understand the risks you’re taking.

If you’re not married, then in the event of a split, you won’t be entitled to a share of the pension at all. If you are married, then within a divorce, women tend to leave with less than half of the pension. This is often because women will offset it in an effort to keep the family home, especially if they have primary responsibility for the children. However, this could leave them with a massive hole in their retirement finances.

Even if you stay together, you need to consider the practicalities of sharing one income, managed by one of you, especially if you have different financial priorities. Often both of the couple will want the security and independence of their own income.

The figures show women are particularly at risk, with almost 40% saying they expected to rely on a partner’s pension in retirement. This is down to a variety of factors including lower wages, part-time work, and time out of the workforce for caring responsibilities. However, almost a quarter (23%) of men also said they would likely need to rely on a partner’s pension so it’s by no means purely a female thing.

The good news is that younger age groups feel they will not have to rely on their partner so much. Only a quarter of the 18-24 age group said they thought they might have to rely on a partner. However, we need to bear in mind that for many of them, the years where their finances will be severely squeezed are ahead of them. Auto-enrolment means more people than ever will be able to build up a pension throughout their working lives meaning they are less likely to have to rely on anyone else in retirement.”

Tips to boost your pension

  1. Increase your contributions whenever you can – we have many different demands on our money but making small contribution increases, for instance when you get a pay rise, can have a big impact on the value of your pension pot.
  2. Get more from your workplace pension – while many employers will only pay the minimum contributions for auto-enrolment there are others who will increase their contribution if you boost yours. Over time this can have a significant impact on the value of your pension so be sure to ask your HR department if this is available.
  3. Missing pensions – the average person is likely to accumulate several pensions over their working life and it can be easy to lose track of them and this means you don’t get the pension income you are entitled to. Be sure to give your pension providers up to date contact details when you move to a new house to make sure you receive all the documentation you need to keep up to date. If in doubt the government’s Pension Tracing Service Find pension contact details – GOV.UK ( can help you track down any lost pensions.