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The state pension

The key questions, answered

Important information SIPPs are a type of pension for people happy to make their own investment decisions. Investments go down in value as well as up so you could get back less than you invest. The rules mentioned are those currently applying and could change. You can normally only access the money from age 55 (57 from 2028). Tax reliefs depend on individual circumstances. This website is not personal advice, if you are unsure an investment is suitable for your circumstances please seek advice.

How does the State Pension work?

Once you reach ‘State Pension Age’, the government pays you a guaranteed income for the rest of your life based on your National Insurance record. This is called the State Pension.

You don’t get it automatically. You have to claim it. You should get a letter four months before you reach State Pension Age, telling you what to do. If you’ve been employed for most of your working life, you should qualify.

You don’t have to start receiving payments straight away, you can choose to defer for as long as you want and receive an increase as a result.

Video: frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

  • Will I get a State Pension?

    The OLD State Pension

    You'll qualify if:

    • You’re a man born on or before 5 April 1951 or a woman born on or before 5 April 1953, and
    • You’ve paid National Insurance (NI) contributions or received NI credits for at least 1 year

    You may also qualify based on your spouse or civil partner’s NI record.

    The NEW State Pension

    You'll qualify if:

    • You’re a man born on or after 6 April 1951 or a woman born on or after 6 April 1953, and
    • You’ve paid National Insurance (NI) contributions or received NI credits for at least 10 years
  • How much State Pension will I get?

    The amount you’ll receive largely depends on how many ‘qualifying years’ of National Insurance (NI) contributions you have.

    The number of qualifying years you have will depend on how many years you’ve been employed or self-employed and paid National Insurance contributions.

    Old State Pension New State Pension
    Maximum weekly payment £125.95 basic + any additional pension amount Usually £164.35
    NI years needed for full rate 30 35
    NI years to qualify for minimum payment 1 10
  • When will I get the new State Pension?

    To find out your exact State Pension Age - please use the government’s State Pension Age Calculator

    For some people the State Pension Age is still 65 (or even younger for women born before 1953). It’s due to increase gradually to 68 over the next 30 years, though there’s no guarantee that it won’t rise quicker or higher.

  • Can I increase the amount of State Pension I receive?

    There are two ways you can increase the amount of State Pension you’ll receive:

    1. Defer your State Pension

    You don’t have to start receiving payments straight away when you reach State Pension Age, you can choose to defer for as long as you want and receive an increase in your future State Pension as a result.

    This can be helpful if you’re still in work, because you’ll get larger payments later, when they might be of more use to you (or you might be in a lower tax band).

    If you qualify for the new State Pension, for every 9 weeks you defer - your payment will rise by 1%. For example, if you qualify for a State Pension of £8,546.20 a year (the full State Pension) and defer for 1 year, you’ll increase your starting income by £481 a year (that’s just under a 5.8% increase), but remember you will have missed out on a year’s income.

    If you are in receipt of the old State Pension and have not previously deferred then you can defer and receive an increase of 1% for every 5 weeks of deferral (or around 10.4% per year).

    You can also defer receiving payments once you’ve already started claiming, but you can only do this once.

    2. Buy ‘extra’ pension years

    If you have gaps in your National Insurance history, e.g. if you have stopped work early, you may be able to fill these by making voluntary National Insurance contributions.

    Paying a one-off lump sum could increase the amount of State Pension you receive by thousands over your lifetime. However, you’ll need to consider what else you could have used that money for and how long you might need to live to get a good return in order to work out whether it’s the right thing to do.

    You should also consider whether you are likely to be eligible for pension credit (see below) before deciding whether to buy extra years.

    You can check for NI gaps online by requesting a State Pension statement from the government website. Normally, you can only make up for gaps from the last 6 years.

  • What is pension credit?

    Pension credit is an income-related benefit for low earners who do not qualify for the full weekly flat-rate of £164.35. After the government assesses your income and savings, they may top up your State Pension. Receiving pension credit does not mean you will lose entitlement to other benefits. The government’s calculator will help you find out if you are eligible and how much you could get –

Is the State Pension enough to live on?

While the State Pension may be the main source of retirement income for many, it’s unlikely to give you all the income you need for the retirement of your dreams.

The full State Pension is currently £164.35 per week. That’s £8,546.20 each year. Could you live comfortably on this amount? Or would your standard of living be affected?

If you’re not sure, you can try our free tools, which should help:

Budget Planner

Pension Calculator

You can see how much you’re likely to receive by requesting a State Pension statement from the government online.

Private pensions: boost your savings

Pensions are one of the most tax-efficient ways of saving for retirement. If you want more than the State Pension pays, then you could boost your savings and receive tax relief by adding money to a private pension.

Most people can receive up to 45% tax relief for this tax year (2018/2019) when they add money to a pension, such as the HL SIPP (self-invested personal pension). Even non-taxpayers can benefit, but the higher your rate of tax, the more you could receive, as tax benefits depend on personal circumstances.

More about the HL SIPP

For example:

  • You contribute £8,000 into your pension.
  • The government adds £2,000, to make a total investment of £10,000.
  • Higher and top-rate taxpayers can then claim back even more via their tax return. £10,000 in a pension could effectively cost as little as £5,500.

Are you a Scottish taxpayer?

If you’re a Scottish taxpayer, the amount of tax relief you can claim is different. Take a look at our information on the Scottish income tax changes page. Remember that rules can change. As you’re investing for retirement with a pension, you can’t usually access your money until age 55 (rising to 57 from 2028).

New to SIPPs?

Have a look at our Guide to SIPPs to find out more about how SIPPs work and how to get started.