The 'motherhood penalty', bad coffee - and rarely even a thank-you

On the so-called 'motherhood penalty', Aegon found that the average pension pot for a woman, at £24,900, is just a third of a man’s (£73,600)

I KNEW a nun who was very involved in the community and started a whole host of fantastic initiatives for young people. She had to religiously go to the bishop for approval for her stuff, but he was a bit stuffy so sometimes wouldn't let her go ahead.

So what did she do? Fair play to her, she put the children first and stopped asking the bishop.

She said: “Sometimes it's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.”

She's away to meet the Lord now, but those wise words stay with me still.

In money matters, however, things are different. We need to ask, well, not permission, but advice - so that we never have to ask forgiveness.

We don't want to be short of a bob in our later years, when our children, having eaten us out of house and home for 17 years, think they are doing us a favour by moving out. They are not moving out. They are just getting dearer. They may need help with education at college (did you know a pint now costs over £3?). Then there is help with a deposit for their first home, and then help with our grandchildren, whom we want to spoil.

This is why I was shocked to read about the rising cost of childcare in Northern Ireland, because when mums take a career break to take care of their young family, they often also take a break from pension contributions. As a result they end up having much less than their husbands in retirement.

The pension company Aegon found that the average pension pot for a woman is a third of a man's. It's just £24,900, compared to £73,600 for him. They also found that many women don't review their pension saving: 42 per cent have never asked their adviser to check how much they will have when they finish work – or even if they will ever afford to finish work.

A recent survey by Employers for Childcare revealed that, on average, a full-time childcare place in Northern Ireland costs £168 per week. One third of 6,000 parents said their childcare bill was higher than their mortgage. A quarter indicated they had to take overdrafts, credit cards, loans from family or friends, even payday loans to pay their childcare bill.

The underlying problem is that the cost of childcare prevents many young mums from going back to work – the pattern shows many would be wanting only part-time work, but the financial, not to mention emotional toll of someone else caring for the children makes them decide against it.

So as a young mum, you stay at home, see each of them through to primary school, best thing you will ever do. (Rarely will you hear a ‘thank you', by the way).

But you do take your eye off the ball, in terms of saving for later life. Before you know it, you've been home for 10 years, and suddenly it's much harder to go back to work again. Think about the noise! Think about the bad coffee!

This is so common that it's even got a name. It's called ‘the motherhood penalty'. A new mum takes years out of the workplace to rear her children, and for one reason or another just can't find her way back.

Mum, your average life expectancy is 86 years. Should you spare 30 minutes of that to talk to a financial adviser? Just to make sure you have a few pounds in the bank later on?

It's all about our grandchildren. Don't end up having to ask forgiveness.

:: Michael Kennedy is an independent financial adviser and pensions specialist, and can be contacted on 028 71886005. Further information on Facebook at Kennedy Independent Financial Advice Ltd or at

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