Unsure if you’re on course to receive a full State Pension when you retire? Confused by whether or not it would be worth buying top-ups to fill any gaps? Then, says Richard Collinson, CEO of AAA members RetireEasy, read on.
Former pensions minister Steve Webb is urging anyone planning their retirement to check whether they could profitably plug gaps in their NI contributions and boost their state pension for life – and he has set up a helpful website to guide you through the process.
First, the one fact that makes it well worthwhile to check out your pension forecast: one year of voluntary National Insurance contributions typically costs £824.20, and you would get your money back in just four years.
After that, every year will see you effectively recouping a profit on your investment. Someone who draws down their state pension for 20 years would end up receiving £6,000 for that initial £824.20 – not forgetting that this figure is set to at least keep up with inflation in the years ahead, thanks to the “Triple Lock”.
If you have more than one gap, as many of us do (because of career breaks or because we have been paying into a separate employer-run scheme) then the sums involved could be very significant and make a big, big difference to your retirement income.
The full flat rate state pension is currently £203.85 a week or an annual £10,600. This will rise to £221.20 or around £11,500 a year next April – a handy contribution to most people’s retirement income.
How to go about it
You will first need to check your NI record on the DWP website to find out how many years’ contributions you have made (you will need 35 to enjoy a full pension) then decide if you need to top up any gaps. You can do that here: https://www.gov.uk/check-state-pension
It’s currently a good time to do that, as the usual six-year deadline to plug NI gaps is currently extended right back to 2006/07 – and the top-up deadline to take advantage of that is 5 April 2025. Sorting out top ups has taken some people a long time because of enquiry backlogs at the DWP, making it worthwhile to begin the process in good time.
You can also get independent expert advice on navigating the system on the website run by Steve Webb: https://www.lcp.com/statepensionboost
“Topping up your state pension can be a highly cost-effective way of securing a higher income in retirement,” he says. “In many cases this will boost state pension entitlement by 1/35th of the standard rate.”
Self-employed people pay different rates of NI contributions, and Steve Webb also has full details on his site on how self-employed people can build their state pension entitlement.
There are more helpful features on planning your retirement finances on the RetireEasy website. And their RetireEasy LifePlan can let you see at a glance if your retirement plans are on track.