A state pension in the UK provides regular payments from the government once you reach state pension age. The rules on how much you’ll receive from your state pension have become a little more complicated since April 2016. On this page, you’ll find out everything you need to know about the UK state pension, how it works, how you can claim and ways in which you may be able to increase your state pension.

The rundown
  • State pension in the UK is a regular payment you receive from the government when you’re a pensioner
  • The state pension you’ll receive depends on your age, the day you were born and your gender
  • You’ll be eligible to claim your state pension once you reach state pension age, which is currently 66 for both men and women

State pension explained

The state pension in the UK is a regular payment you can claim from the government when you reach state pension age, which is currently 66 for both men and women (but this does depend on when you were born).

The amount you’ll receive in state pension will depend on how many qualifying years of National Insurance payments you’ve made. National Insurance includes contributions you’ve made when working, as well as contributions that are credited to you when you’re unable to work.

How does the state pension work?

How your state pension works depends on your age and gender. The following is an outline of how the state pension works for people of different genders and ages:

Women born before 6th April 1950

The full basic state pension you’re eligible to receive is £134.25 per week. To claim this full amount, you’ll need to have 39 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions. You may still be able to claim a basic state pension if you have at least 10 qualifying years of NI contributions, but you won’t receive as much. 

Women born between 6th April 1950 and 6th April 1953

The full basic state pension you can claim is £134.25 per week. However, you’ll only need 30 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions to claim this full amount. You’ll still be able to claim even if you only have one qualifying year of NI contributions, but you won’t receive as much. 

Women born after 5th April 1953

If you’re a woman born after this date, you’ll be able to claim the new state pension, which was introduced in April 2016. The maximum amount you can claim is currently £175.20 per week. You’ll need 35 qualifying years of National Insurance to receive this full amount, and at least 10 NI qualifying years to make a claim. The total amount you’ll receive is dependent on how many years of contributions you’ve made. 

Men born before 6th April 1945

If you’re a man born before this date, you’re eligible to receive a full basic state pension of £134.25 per week as long as you have made at least 44 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions. You’ll still be able to claim a basic state pension if you have at least 11 NI qualifying years, but you won’t be able to claim the full amount. 

Men born between 6th April 1945 and 5th April 1951

The full basic state pension you’re eligible to claim is £134.25 per week. You’ll only need 30 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions to receive this full amount, and a minimum of one NI qualifying year will mean you can claim some basic state pension. 

Men born after 6th April 1951

If you’re a man born after this date, you’ll be able to claim the new state pension introduced in April 2016, which is £175.20 per week. You’ll need 35 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions to receive the full amount, but you may receive a reduced amount if you have at least 10 NI qualifying years. These qualifying years can be before or after April 2016. 

Who is eligible to claim a state pension in the UK?

You’re eligible to claim a basic state pension in the UK if you’re a man born before the 6th April 1951, or the 6th April 1953 if you’re a woman. If you were born on or after these dates, you’re eligible to claim the new state pension, as explained above.

How much state pension will I receive?

If you’ve qualified for the basic state pension, the amount you can receive is up to £134.25 per week. If you’re married or in a civil partnership and both you and your spouse have made National Insurance contributions, the amount you receive may double, meaning you could receive a total of £268.50 per week. 

If you’ve made additional state pension contributions (see the section below on increasing your state pension), the maximum amount you could receive is £179.41 per week. 

If you’ve qualified for the new state pension introduced in April 2016, you could receive up to £175.20 per week. Because of changes to how the state pension works, you can no longer build up additional state pension, and you can only claim the full state pension once you have made 35 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions

To receive any state pension at all, you’ll need at least 10 years of National Insurance contributions. 

To find out how much state pension you may receive, you can use an online pension calculator.

What if I contracted out of the scheme?

Before introducing the UK’s new state pension, you were allowed to contract out of the scheme, cutting your state pension by paying less National Insurance. 

If you contracted out of the scheme and have been making reduced National Insurance contributions, you may not receive the full amount of the state pension you technically qualify for

How do I claim my state pension?

You can claim your state pension once you’ve reached state pension age, which is currently 66 for men and women. However, you won’t automatically receive your state pension. You’ll receive a letter around four months before you retire or reach state pension age that will tell you how you can claim your state pension. There are three ways to claim, which are as follows: 

  • By calling the State Pensions Claim line on 0800 731 7898
  • By completing a form and sending it to your local pension centre
  • If you’re claiming from abroad, including the Channel Islands, you should contact the International Pension Centre

Can I increase my state pension?

The value of your new state pension depends on the National Insurance contributions you make. If you’ve reached the state pension age without enough qualifying years to receive the full state pension, you may be able to top up your National Insurance and close the gap by paying voluntary contributions.

Are there other ways of saving for retirement?

It’s important to maximise all the means you have of saving for retirement because the state pension isn’t typically enough for you to live comfortably.

If you want to increase your retirement income to have a more comfortable lifestyle, you might want to consider paying into a personal pension or opening a savings account. Savings accounts, such as fixed rate bonds, can provide a competitive, fixed interest rate and help you save more for your retirement.

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