Here are the recent and future changes to the state pension age, so you can find out when you will be allowed to retire.
What is happening to the state pension?
The state pension age is rising. And it’s happening at breakneck speed.
For donkey’s years, the age at which you could claim your state pension benefits was 65 for men and 60 for women.
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But huge jumps in life expectancy have seen costs shoot up for the Treasury, which is paying some pensioners for more years in retirement than they spent paying National Insurance as workers.
Both men and women’s state pension ages have risen to 66, as of 6 October 2020. And between 2026 and 2028, they will both rise again to 67.
The next rise to 68 will happen between 2037 and 2039, after the Government accepted the recommendation of ex-Confederation of British Industry boss John Cridland, who carried out an official review of future state pension age increases.
The changes to the state pension age are aimed at bringing women’s state pension age into line with men’s, and taking account of everyone living longer.
The exact date that you get your state pension will depend on the year you were born. You can work this out using the state pension calculator.
Why is there controversy over women’s state pension age increases?
Many women born in the 1950s face financial hardship while they wait longer than they expected to draw the state pension.
A version of the plans to equalise men and women’s state pension age was outlined in 1995, when the then Conservative Government stated the intention of gradually raising women’s retirement age to 65 between 2010 and 2020.
This was followed in 2007 by a Labour announcement that both men and women would see their retirement age go up to 66 between 2024 and and 2026.
But in 2011, Chancellor George Osborne brought forward the timing of both changes to 2018 and 2020 respectively, hitting women particularly hard because their increases are happening both sooner than expected and in quick succession.
Initially, the overhaul included a cap of a maximum two years’ extra wait for a state pension, but protests led to the cap being reduced to 18 months.
Some 2.6million women got just five years’ notice of an extension to their pension age.
The Women Against State Pension Inequality or WASPI campaign says it agrees with equalising women’s and men’s pension ages, but not the ‘unfair’ way the changes are being implemented. It is fighting for measures to cushion the financial blow.
A separate group, BackTo60, brought a legal challenge but this was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in September 2020.
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Who can get a state pension?
Not everyone is entitled to the full state pension, which is a regular payment from the government until you die. Eligibility depends on meeting certain criteria.
As well as being the required age, you must have made National Insurance contributions during your working like, or have paid voluntary National Insurance or be credited with them by the government.
Until April 2016, workers needed to have 30 years of qualifying National Insurance contributions to get the full basic state pension, but everyone retiring since then will need 35 years of contributions to get the new flat rate state pension.
However, even if you paid in full for a whole 35 years, if you contracted out for some years on top of that it might still reduce what you get.
How much is the state pension?
The basic state pension is currently £134.25 a week. It is topped up by additional state pension entitlements – S2P and Serps – accrued during working years.
The two-tier state system has changed for people retiring since 6 April 2016, when it was replaced by a new ‘flat rate’ state pension. This is currently worth £175.20 a week.
However, people who have contracted out of S2P and Serps over the years will get less than this.
Everyone gets the option of deferring their state pension to get more in their later years, and of filling in gaps in their NI record or buying top-ups.
If you delayed in the past, the rules were more generous, but if you reached state pension age since April 2016 you still get the option of increased state pension for the rest of your life.
Also, you can stop claiming the state pension after doing so for a period. And if you carry on working after state pension age, you don’t have to carry on paying National Insurance contributions.
The state pension currently increases every year according to the Triple Lock, which means whichever is the highest of earnings growth, the inflation rate or 2.5 per cent.