State Pension: Expert outlines criteria to qualify
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Yet millions have no idea what they are going to get in retirement, because they never check. Many could suffer a devastating shortfall as a result. Here’s how to avoid that nightmare scenario.
The State Pension provides more than half the retirement income paid to almost five million retirees, official figures show.
For very poorest, it is even more important. Just over 1.6 million pensioners live on annual income of £11,757 or less.
For them, the State Pension makes up almost two thirds of their total income, at £7,322, the Office for National Statistics says.
Yet Britons do not automatically get State Pension. They have to “earn” it by making National Insurance contributions during their working lifetime.
This means there is serious danger that you could end up with a shortfall.
Nobody wants to retire on a reduced State Pension, yet too many people fail to confirm whether that will happen.
Checking how much State Pension you are on course to receive and at what age is crucial for retirement planning and easy to do, says Stephen Lowe, director at retirement specialist Just Group. “It’s worth taking a little time to do it, as this is the bedrock of your income after you stop working.”
The maximum new State Pension for those who retire after April 6, 2016, is currently £9,627.80 a year.
For those retiring before that date on the basic State Pension, it is lower at £7,376.20. However, some may get extra additional State Pension on top, such as Serps.
Yet to fund a comfortable standard of living in retirement a couple needs around £31,000 a year, according to the Pension and Lifetime Savings Association.
Even if both partners retired on the maximum new State Pension, they would still only get £19,255.60. That would leave them £11,744 short of a comfortable retirement.
Others will get even less. That’s what makes it so important to find out how much State Pension you are on course to receive.
Lowe says: “We strongly urge everybody to check their State Pension forecast once a year to ensure that the information the government holds is correct and you are on course for maximum income.”
You can request a State Pension forecast simply and easily online. Otherwise contact the Future Pension Centre helpline on 0800 731 0175.
This also allows you to correct any mistakes and make up gaps in your National insurance record, Lowe says. “That’s better than doing it later, when it may be too late to make up any State Pension shortfall.”
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Just Group’s research found four in 10 older workers fail to check their State Pension forecast before retiring. “Of those who did check, one in six said the forecast was less than they had expected,” Lowe said.
The government has a useful online page taking people through the basics of retirement planning, he adds.
Today’s working age people need at least 10 qualifying years on their National Insurance record to get any State Pension and 35 years to get the full amount.
Lowe says you can make up any shortfall but the sooner you find out where you stand, the better.
Once you have your accurate forecast, you can work out how much extra retirement income you need to generate from other sources, such as a company or personal pension, or tax-free Isas and savings.
Lowe adds: “Everyone over 50 should also book a session with the government’s free, independent and impartial guidance service Pension Wise.
“This will explain your options and show how private pensions interact with the State Pension and other benefits.”
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