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A man calculating his state pension information on a tablet

The state pension is a valuable source of income for many people in retirement. Throughout your working life it’s important to keep abreast of whether you’ll be eligible and how much you might receive, but it’s not always easy. 

So, we’ve answered the top 20 most-Googled questions about the state pension, so you have all the information you need in one place. 

How much state pension will I get at 66? 

Whether someone is eligible for the state pension and how much they receive depends on the number of years of national insurance contributions they have made.  

National insurance is similar to income tax and most people have it deducted from their wages automatically, while self-employed people pay it through their tax return. Some benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Maternity Allowance give people credits which count towards their national insurance record. 

You need to have accrued at least 10 years of national insurance contributions to receive any state pension. Those with fewer than 10 years of contributions will not receive any state pension. 

To receive the full amount of state pension, which is currently £185.15 a week (£9,627.80 a year), you need to have at least 35 years of national insurance contributions. 

People with between 10 and 35 years of contributions receive a smaller amount. The exact amount is on a sliding scale, with more years meaning a bigger state pension.  

Check how many years you have totted up on the Government Gateway website.  

When will I get my state pension?  

The age people become eligible to receive the state pension depends on the year they were born. People born before April 1959 will reach their state pension age at 66.  

The state pension age is rising so people born after 5th March 1961 will wait until age 67.1   

People born after 5th April 1978 should expect to start getting the state pension at 68 – although these dates haven’t been confirmed yet.   

Who qualifies for the new state pension?  

The ‘new’ state pension is also called the ‘full state pension’ and it is paid to people who reach their retirement age from the 6th April 2016 onwards. 

How much you receive will depend on how many years of national insurance contributions you have made. People who reached retirement age before 5th April 2016 receive the ‘basic state pension’, which has different rules for qualification and different amounts paid.  

Will there be a rise in the state pension in 2022/23?  

In April 2022 the state pension rose by 3.1%. In pounds and pence, the full state pension rose to £185.15 a week (£9,627.80 a year) from £179.60 a week (£9,339 a year) in the 2021-22 tax year. 

Since 2010 the state pension has been increased annually based on trends in the wider economy. 

Will state pension be enough for a comfortable retirement?  

The full state pension is £9,627.80 a year in 2022-23. There is no set figure for how much each person needs to get by, partly because living costs vary across the UK but also because individual expectations for a comfortable lifestyle can differ greatly. 

As a rough guide, consumer advocacy group Which?  says the minimum someone would need to afford essential living costs in retirement is £12,000 a year, which is more than the full state pension (£9,627.80 a year).  

For a more comfortable lifestyle an income of £19,000 would be needed – but even including the contribution from the full state pension retirees would need to supplement their income with an additional £10,000 per year.  A luxurious lifestyle would require around £31,000 a year. 

Even if the state pension seems like a sufficient amount to meet your lifestyle expectations, bear in mind you may have unexpected needs, such as a broken boiler or servicing your car, so it is advisable to have additional funds available for retirement. You may also want additional money set aside to help fully enjoy your free time, whether it’s through pursuing hobbies, socialising, doing up your home, traveling or spoiling your family. Retirement can last for decades, so it’s a good idea to make contributions to a workplace or private pension while you are working. 

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How much state pension will I get if I have never worked?  

State pension payments are based on an individual’s record of paying national insurance, rather than their employment history. You need at least 10 years of national insurance contributions to achieve any state pension, and at least 35 years of contributions to receive the full amount (£185.15 a week in 2022-23). 

Typically, people pay national insurance alongside income tax through their employer’s payroll, or through a tax return if they are self-employed. 

However, it is also possible to make national insurance contributions if you are not working, so that you can become eligible to receive the state pension when you reach retirement age. 

Also, people in receipt of certain benefits receive ‘credits’ towards national insurance, which keeps their record up.  

If you have never worked, log on to the Government Gateway website and after creating a personal account you will be able to see your record of national insurance contributions. You will also see an indication of how much state pension you are likely to receive. 

It’s possible to make back payments to cover any gaps in your national insurance record. The actual cost differs for each tax year, but typically are in the region of £500. Check whether making back payments could bring you up to 10 years of national insurance contributions, which would make you eligible to receive some state pension. If you already have 10 years of contributions but fall short of the 35 years required to receive the full amount of state pension, consider whether you could afford to make back payments to increase the amount you will receive.   

How much is state pension for a couple?  

The state pension is paid to individuals based on their record of national insurance contributions.  

There is no special amount for people living in couples.  

However, women who paid a reduced rate of national insurance in the past, may be eligible to receive top-up payments based on their husband’s national insurance record. This was a popular choice for married couples and was known by a number of different names including ‘the small stamp’, ‘the married woman’s stamp’ or ‘reduced rate married woman’s contributions’. 

How many years NI contributions do you need for a full State Pension? 

People who reach retirement age after 6th April 2016 need to have accrued at least 35 years of national insurance contributions to receive the ‘full state pension’.  

What is the state pension age for women?  

In the past women became eligible to receive the state pension at a younger age than men. However, this has been changed and everyone becomes eligible to receive the state pension at the same age regardless of sex or gender – provided they have made sufficient national insurance contributions.  

How can I calculate my pension? 

Many people have different kinds of pensions, including their state pension entitlement and workplace or private pensions. Knowing how much income they may provide in retirement may depend on the pension:  

State pension 

The quickest way to see a forecast of how much state pension you are likely to receive is by logging on to the Government Gateway website and creating an account. 

You will also be able to see a record of your national insurance contributions, including any years when you did not make sufficient contributions. It’s possible to make back-dated payments to fill in these gaps – the website will show how much you must pay for each year.  

You can also call the Future Pension centre to request a forecast. They may send you a form to apply by post. 

Workplace and private pensions 

Check the paperwork for any workplace pensions or pensions you have set up yourself, known as ‘private’ pensions. You should receive an annual statement from your workplace pension which explains how much you have saved. With private pensions you may have to go online or contact the provider to check the amount you have. 

Defined benefit 

Also known as ‘final salary’ pensions, these are workplace schemes where members build up the entitlement to an annual amount of pension. If you have a defined benefit pension, the paperwork or website should display how much you are on track to receive when you retire. 

Defined contribution 

This kind of pension is common in the workplace and is also the kind you have if you open a pension privately. They allow people to build up a pot of money which is invested so it will hopefully increase in value. At retirement, people have a number of options including: 

*Turn their pot into a regular income with an annuity; 

*Take lump sums either once or regularly (subject to tax rules)  

*Keep the money invested and withdraw the investment income.  

*A combination of these and others 

Calculating all your pensions together 

Once you have figures for each of your pensions including your state entitlement, input them all into an online pensions calculator to get an overview of what your retirement may look like. 

Should I be supplementing my state pension with a personal pension? 

Living off the state pension alone doesn’t provide a champagne lifestyle – it provides for a modest standard of living. Many people supplement their income with personal pensions either through their workplace or independently, which are known as ‘private pensions’.  

One important benefit of having money held in personal pensions is that you can usually make withdrawals once you reach the age of 55 (rising to 57 from 2028). This is more than a decade before most people become eligible to receive the state pension at the age of 66. It may be useful to have money held in personal pensions which could be used to reduce your working hours or pay off a mortgage before you reach the state pension age, but it’s worth bearing in mind there may be tax implications to consider. 

How to claim state pension 

Many people think they will receive the state pension automatically when they become old enough, but this is not true. You must claim the state pension otherwise you may not receive it. 

In the run-up to your birthday when you become eligible to receive the state pension you will receive an information pack. It should arrive no later than two months before your milestone birthday. 

It contains all the information you will need to claim the state pension. 

The quickest way to claim the state pension is online on the government website.  

If you have not received an information pack it is still possible to make a claim for the state pension online, provided you are within four months of reaching your state pension age. 

What happens to my state pension when I die?  

Spouses and civil partners may also be able to inherit some of your state pension payments after you die. It’s not paid automatically, they have to make a claim for the Additional State Pension. The rules depend on whether the person who died reached the state pension age before April 2016 or afterwards, but typically any money your spouse is entitled to is added onto their state pension when they start receiving it.  

If your spouse or civil partner remarries, they could lose the right to inherit your pension.  

How do I trace old pensions? 

If you’ve had more than one job, then the chances are you have more  than one workplace pension. You could also have a personal pension that you’re contributing to.  

Many people have pensions from previous jobs that they have lost track of – in fact this is such a big issue that an estimated £400m lies in unclaimed pension pots.2 

There is a free online Pension Tracing Service which can help reunite people with lost pensions. You will need to know the name of the former employer where you had the pension or the name of the pension provider.  

Tracing old pensions is a good idea, not just because it is money you could use in your retirement. Your pension money is invested and the provider charges fees for this. You may be doubling up by having similar investments in a number of different pension pots, which will cost you more. In some cases, missing pensions can be languishing in unsuitable investments.  

It is possible to transfer pension pots into one, which is called ‘consolidation’. This can make it easier to keep tabs on your retirement funds. 

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Who is eligible for state pension? 

People who have paid national insurance contributions for 10 or more years are eligible to receive the state pension. They don’t have to be consecutive years.  

You don’t have to reside in the UK when you retire, as state pension payments can be made to most countries. However, payments online increase for people living in certain countries including Switzerland, Gibraltar, the European Economic Area and states that have made a social security agreement with the UK.  

When does state pension increase?  

The state pension normally rises at the start of each tax year on 6th April. The specific amount is usually announced six months in advance, in October of the previous year.  

How do I check my state pension forecast?  

By creating an account on the Government Gateway website you can see a forecast of how much state pension you are likely to receive, based on the national insurance contributions you have made. 

You will be able to see your full record of national insurance contributions for each tax year including any gaps.   

How much is widows state pension?  

The Widows Pension has been replaced with Bereavement Support Allowance. This is a payment to the surviving spouse or civil partner of someone who passed away following an accident at work or due to a disease caused by work. 

Other stipulations include: 

  • The person who passed away must have been under the state pension age at the time of death  
  • They must have paid national insurance for at least 21 weeks of one tax year since 1975,  
  • The surviving spouse ought to make a claim for Bereavement Support Allowance within three months following their partner’s death in order to receive the full amount. Claims can be made up to 21 months following the death but payments may be lower.  

What is the minimum state pension?   

There is no official ‘minimum state pension’. However, people with 10 years of national insurance contributions, which is the minimum to qualify to receive any state pension, will usually receive 10/35ths of the total amount of state pension. 

That equals £185.15 per year in the 2022-23 tax year, roughly £53 a week.  

Risk warning 

As with all investing, your capital is at risk. The value of your portfolio with Nutmeg can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. A pension may not be right for everyone and tax rules may change in the future. Please note that during any transfer, your investments will be out of the market. If you are unsure if a pension is right for you, please seek financial advice.