There’s one subject of vital importance to us all, yet it’s rarely understood and many people go in to denial about what it will mean for them. That subject is the State Pension.

Many people will have pension schemes from work, but millions won’t, or have low value workplace or private pensions, meaning they are almost or entirely reliant on the State Pension.

In fact, according to research from Royal London, one in five (22%) people aged 66 or over said that the State Pension is their only source of income in retirement. Over one third (34%) of people said it’s their main source of income.

Given that I’ve been a money and consumer rights campaigner for years, I must say I find the whole subject of pensions bewildering. I too am one of those people who isn’t entirely sure about the ins and outs of my own state pension and contributions. So I’ve recruited my fellow TV expert and consumer finance specialist, Sarah Pennells to set the record straight.

What do you know about your State Pension?

Sarah and Royal London conducted some exclusive research for the Mirror to find out what people knew about their State Pension.

Just over half of the people surveyed (55%) knew that you usually need to have paid or been credited with 35 years of National Insurance to get the full State Pension – yet 45% said that they were previously unaware of this. Alarmingly, 3 in 10 of 50–69-year-olds still said they did not know about the amount of time they had to have contributed.

Only two fifths of people know that men and women receive the State Pension at the same age. Almost the same number thought women and men received their State Pension at different ages.

Worryingly, there was widespread confusion about how people get their State Pension, with a third of people incorrectly saying that you automatically receive your State Pension when you reach state pension age, a third correctly saying this was false and 35% saying they didn’t know.  For the record, you only get your State Pension if you claim it, although you should be contacted by the DWP a few months before you reach State Pension age, telling you how to claim.

The State Pension – a plain English guide

The State Pension is a regular payment that comes from the Government that you claim when you reach state pension age. Here’s the official guidance

Hmmmm…. That’s a little dry, isn’t it?! Fortunately, I have Sarah Pennells to translate all of this in to plain English for us! Over to you Sarah…

“Your state pension age is the earliest age at which you can start claiming your State Pension. For people in their 40s to mid-60s the state pension age is currently between ages 66 and 68 depending on when you were born. You can check when your state pension age is likely to be but bear in mind this could change in the future.

The amount of State Pension you get depends on your National Insurance contributions. Most people under state pension age typically pay National Insurance contributions on any earned income they receive. If you’re not sure if you’re paying NI then you can find out more here.

But if you don’t pay National Insurance, don’t panic!  You may get National Insurance credits. For example, you may get National Insurance credits if you’re claiming state benefits because you’re ill or unemployed, or if you’re claiming Child Benefit for a child under 12 years of age.

You’ll get a proportion of the new State Pension if you have between 10 and 35 qualifying years. A ‘qualifying year’ is when you’ve earned a certain amount by working or receiving certain state benefits”.

Check out Sarah’s full guide here:

How do I know if I’m not contributing enough to the State Pension?

As a general rule, this will probably be because you have gaps in your National Insurance record. These gaps will be for periods when you haven’t made National Insurance contributions or received National Insurance credits. This could be because you were:

  • Employed but had low earnings
  • Unemployed and were not claiming benefits
  • Self-employed but did not pay contributions because of small profits
  • Living abroad.

You may be able to make up these gaps and so increase your State Pension. This could be by paying voluntary National Insurance contributions or getting National Insurance credits. You can find out more at by visiting the government website or by calling the National Insurance helpline on 0300 200 3500. Make sure you have your National Insurance number handy if you call the helpline.

Sarah’s guide to getting to know your State Pension

“There have been a number of changes to the State Pension system over the years, so it’s not surprising that people are confused. However, the State Pension is currently worth over £10,000 a year, if you qualify for the full new State Pension, and it’s vital that you get every penny you’re entitled to.

“If you haven’t already checked when you’ll get your State Pension, that’s a good place to start. People can currently claim their State Pension when they are 66, but that age is rising to 67, and higher, in the future.

“The next step is to get hold of your State Pension forecast, to find out what State Pension you’re on track to get when you retire. If you’re not entitled to the full amount, it may make sense to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions to bump up your State Pension. Not everyone is able to do this and, even for those who can, it doesn’t always make sense to pay out for voluntary National Insurance.

“The good news is that the Government recently extended the deadline for filling in any gaps in NI contributions so you can go back as far as 2006. But there’s no point in paying ‘voluntary’ NI contributions if that won’t increase the State Pension you’re due to receive. For example, because you’ll pay National Insurance anyway as you’re going to continue working, or if you’ll be credited with National Insurance, perhaps if you’re on certain state benefits or are a carer who will qualify for NI credits”.

How to find out about your State Pension Status

If you’re worrying that you haven’t checked out the details of your own State Pension, don’t worry, you are not alone. Here’s what the exclusive Royal London survey found… and how you can get started in seizing control of your State Penson.

Over half of us have not checked our State Pension forecast. The State Pension forecast tells you how much State Pension you’ve built up so far and how much you’re due to receive when you reach State Pension age. Here’s how you check it

Have you checked your State Pension age? Again, almost half of people (45%) say no. 1 in 3 people aged 55 years old or older have never checked their State Pension age. Get started here

I must confess, I’ve not checked my National Insurance record. I’m not alone. A whopping 71% of people are in the same boat and have not checked. Your National Insurance record shows which years you have a full National Insurance record for and where there are gaps. Here’s how you get started

Featured in Mirror – Martyn James and Sarah Pennells

https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/everything-you-need-know-state-30682702

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