This qualitative research provides evidence on how couples go about making household financial decisions, including those on pensions and retirement planning. It was commissioned in order to address a perceived gap in understanding of couples’ retirement planning decisions and address such questions as whether couples take coordinated or individual approaches to pension saving.
The research highlights common themes and differences in decision-making across the range of couples interviewed. As such, it develops further the findings of previous qualitative research by DWP and others on individuals’ attitudes and behaviour towards saving and planning for retirement and on the role of women in household financial planning. This body of research had suggested that whilst there appeared to be emerging patterns of decision-making, the evidence was patchy and somewhat inconsistent.
It also complements more recent (2011) work by the Institute for Social and Economic Research, for the Strategic Society Centre, on the pattern and planning of saving, based on Wave 1 of the Wealth and Assets Survey. This showed that women are five per cent more likely than men to save for a pension when eligible for an occupational scheme. It also suggested, at the level of the household, that partners in couples do not adopt a household-level pension strategy; and that while partners within couples tend to have similar types of pension and make similar pension choices, it is not clear whether this is the result of active and informed decision-making.
Beyond the immediate aims of the research, to address questions around how couples engage with financial decision-making, its findings are feeding into wider policy debate on how best to present information on pensions and retirement planning to individuals and on the role of life events, such as having children, on financial decision-making.
The research comprised face-to-face interviews with 24 households; each partner was interviewed individually to start with, and then together as a couple. The interviews took place in February and March 2012.