3 Your state pension
The role of the state pension is to provide a basic level of income, and recently the age you can receive it has been rising, as people’s life expectancy has been rising.
Since April 2016 those reaching state pension age receive the ‘new’ state pension, also known as the ‘flat-rate’ state pension – this is distinct from the ‘old’ basic state pension paid to people retiring before 6 April 2016. The term ‘flat-rate’ is a bit misleading as the amount of pension you get depends on your lifetime record of National Insurance Contributions (NICs). Those with at least 35 years of contributions get the full amount of £175.20 per week in 2020/21 (£9,110.40 for the year).
Those with fewer than 35 years of contributions get a reduced amount of state pension and those with fewer than 10 years of contributions won’t qualify.
In the next activity, you can find out how much state pension you are on track to receive and the age you can get it.
Activity 2 Your state pension
Use this link to access the current position about state pension age, and your state pension forecast. Open the link in a new tab or window so that you can easily return to the course.
Note down the details.
Was your figure as expected? If your estimated pension was lower than expected this may be because you used to be ‘contracted out’ of part of the old state pension – this means you’ll get some of your pension from an occupational or personal pension instead. Perhaps you have a reduced record as you spent time out of employment? You can receive credits for these periods when you did not work, including time spent looking after your children. If you have any doubts check your NIC record. You should check and challenge any errors you think there are. You can also look at how you can voluntarily top up your NICs if you want to boost your state pension.
Check your national insurance record (open the link in a new tab or window so that you can easily return to the course)
On the other hand, maybe your statement shows that you’ll get more than the full flat-rate pension. This is likely to be because you built up a higher entitlement under the old pre-2016 state pension system. You’ll still get this ‘protected’ extra sum when your new state pension starts.
Some important points to remember:
- State pensions are currently increased every year in April, based on the highest of three measures: the rate of inflation, the rate of average earnings growth, or a 2.5% increase. This way of setting the annual increase is known as the ‘triple lock’.
- You don’t have to take your state pension from the point that you qualify – you can delay this. You’ll receive an extra 1% on your pension payment for each 9 weeks of deferral. So, not taking your state pension for a year will add 5.8% to what you receive. If you are not planning to retire fully until later, it may make sense to delay taking your state pension. A link to finding more about this is provided at the end of the course.
- The government provides a safety net for those who don’t have enough income in retirement. This is called pension credit, and entitlement to it also enables you to obtain other state benefits. If you are retired and your total income is low, you should find out more about pension credit via the link provided at the end of the course. Don’t be one of the estimated 1.5 million households in the UK who are entitled to pension credit but fail to claim it (MoneySavingExpert.com, 2020).
- Your state pension is taxable and will be included in HMRC’s calculation of the income tax you need to pay in the tax year. By contrast, you stop paying NICs when you reach state pension age.
- State pensioners get an annual winter fuel payment – currently £200, or £300 for those aged 80 years or over. These amounts are lower if other members of the household are eligible for the payment or if the pensioner is living in a care home. Pensioners also get a Christmas bonus (currently £10). These are both tax-free.
While the state pension can provide a valuable contribution to the income you require in retirement, it is unlikely to give you enough for an active and colourful retirement. The full new state pension for two people currently amounts to £18,220.80 for 2020/21. This is much lower than the estimated minimum a couple needs for a moderate lifestyle in retirement (£29,100) mentioned in the previous section.
So now it’s time for you to look at the pension income you can get from your own ‘private’ pensions, whether they are ‘personal’ or ‘occupational’ (‘workplace’) pensions.