Written by Retirement Line
Last Updated: 21st February 2024
The UK State Pension is paid to people of State Pension age who have made sufficient National Insurance (NI) contributions during their lifetime.
In this guide to the State Pension, we look at everything from how it’s calculated to future changes in the age at which people will start to receive it. We have also included information on how you might be able to boost the amount you receive.
The full new State Pension is currently £203.85 per week, having increased by 10.01% in April 2023. This was the biggest ever annual increase to the State Pension. The amount is set to increase again by 8.5% to £221.20 a week in April 2024.
How much State Pension you will receive depends on how many full years of National Insurance contributions (NICs) you have made, or how many are credited to you.
You can check how much State Pension you can expect to receive by requesting a State Pension Forecast on the Government website.
The UK State Pension is made to those who have reached the qualifying age, and who have made enough National Insurance contributions during their lifetime.
Your record will need to have at least ten qualifying years for State Pension to pay you anything, although there are some exceptions to this which we will discuss further on. If you have 35 full years of NICs then you will qualify for the full State Pension.
If you qualify then you will receive payments typically every four weeks, paid from a government pot of money funded by taxpayers.
The State Pension age is currently 66, meaning – for the time being at least – your first payment will be made to you within five weeks of your 66th birthday.
The new State Pension age is currently 66 for both men and women. However, it will begin to gradually increase to 67 from 6 May 2026, affecting those born in or after April 1960.
Another change to the age at which you can begin claiming State Pension is currently under discussion, with a decision expected in 2026. Current plans are for the State Pension age to rise again to 68 between 2044 and 2046, though this could be brought forward to 2037.
You can find out your own State Pension age by using the gov.uk pension age calculator.
Changes to State Pension age
State Pension age
When the change comes in
Current age for State Pension
Being phased in from 6th May 2026
Expected to be phased in from 2044, though this could potentially be brought forward to 2037
The State Pension triple lock guarantee ensures that the State Pension increases each year on 6 April by whichever is the highest of the following:
Earnings – the average percentage growth in UK wages.
Prices – the percentage growth in prices in the UK as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).
There was a huge overhaul of the pension system in 2016, resulting in an old ‘basic’ State Pension and the New State Pension. These are the key differences between them:
Comparing the ‘basic’ and ‘New’ State Pension
Old ‘basic’ State Pension
New State Pension
For anyone who reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016.
For men born on or after 6 April 1951 and women born on or after 6 April 1953.
The full basic State Pension is £156.20 a week (£169.50 from April 2024).
The full new State Pension is £203.85 a week (£221.20 from April 2024).
You need 30 years of National Insurance contributions to get the full amount if born between 1945 and 1951.
You need 35 years of National Insurance contributions to get the full amount.
If you have less than 30 years of NI contributions, you will get 1/30 of the full amount for each year that you do have.
You need at least ten qualifying years of NI contributions to get any State Pension. They do not need to be in a row.
You may also get the Additional State Pension which is paid to you automatically if eligible.
You cannot get the Additional State Pension but can apply for Pension Credits if on a low income.
The State Pension is taxable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to pay tax on it. It simply means that your State Pension income counts towards your Personal Allowance, which for 2023/24 is £12,570. This is the amount you can earn each year before paying income tax.
If you receive the full New State Pension it will pay you £10,600.20 over the year - so if this is your only income you won’t have to pay tax on it. However, if your total income including the State Pension takes you over the threshold then you will have to pay tax on any earnings over £12,570.
If you are not quite on track for the full UK State Pension then you may be able to boost the amount that you receive. Here are some ways that you may be able to do that:
Top up your National Insurance contributions. If you have gaps in your National Insurance record then you might be able to make voluntary NI contributions. How much these are and if you are eligible will depend on your individual circumstances. As a general guide, you can typically only pay for gaps that go back six years on your record, though you can sometimes go further back depending on your age.
Unsure of how many years of contributions you have already? Click here to view your National Insurance record.
Apply for Carer’s Credit. If you are a carer and don’t work then you may be eligible for Carer’s Credit. This can help you to maintain your NI record for the purposes of achieving a higher State Pension. If you care for someone for 20 hours per week or more then you can find out more about Carer’s Credit here.
Apply for NI credits based on ill health. You may be able to get NI credits if you are unable to work due to illness. This could be the case if you are receiving Statutory Sick Pay and do not earn enough to make a qualifying year. Read more about who is eligible for NI credits here.
Spousal benefits. You might be able to increase or inherit a State Pension income if you are/have been married or in a civil partnership. This may be the case if you are not eligible for the basic State Pension, or your basic State Pension is less than a certain level per week. You can read more about increasing or inheriting your State Pension from a partner here.
Apply for Pension Credit. If you have a low income then you should check if you are eligible for Pension Credit. Though this is separate to claiming State Pension, it is a top up for your pension income, so you must have reached State Pension age to qualify. Pension Credit tops up your weekly income to £201.05 if you’re single, or your joint weekly income to £306.85 if you have a spouse/partner.
Another way you can increase your UK State Pension is to defer your income, as you don’t have to start receiving it as soon as you become eligible.
By deferring State Pension income, you could get a higher amount paid to you when you do claim. How much more money you could get by deferring State Pension income depends on how long you wait until you claim it.
According to the gov.uk website, the State Pension increases by 1% for every nine weeks you put off claiming it, or around 5.8% for each full year. This currently equates to an extra £47.28 every four weeks for each year that you defer.
There are however some points to consider about deferring State Pension income which you may wish to take advice on or research further. For instance, depending on how long you defer, your higher payments may take you over the Personal Allowance for income tax.
In addition, deferring your State Pension can affect which other benefits you qualify for, due to you having a higher income. This can include Pension Credits, Universal Credit, Income Support and more.
You can turn certain types of personal and workplace pension into income with a pension annuity. An annuity can provide a guaranteed income for the rest of your life, or for a fixed-term if you prefer.
At Retirement Line, our friendly team can help you to compare annuity quotes and explore your various options.
As the UK’s leading annuity broker*, our specialist team at Retirement Line offers a full annuity information, quotation and arrangement service.
To speak to an annuity specialist call the Retirement Line team today on 01733 973038 or request a free call back here. Alternatively, calculate how much annuity income you could achieve using our free online tool.
The full New State Pension is currently £203.85 per week. Due to the triple lock guarantee, this amount is due to increase by 8.5% to £221.20 per week from April 2024.
You will need to have 35 years of full National Insurance contributions to qualify for the full State Pension, and a minimum of ten years’ contributions to receive any State Pension.
If you have 10–34 years of NI contributions on your record, how much State Pension you receive will depend on the number of years that you have. You may be able to get credits for gaps in your record if you are a carer or are unable to work due to ill health.
If you have never worked then you will not be able to claim the State Pension. However, there are exceptions to this.
If, for instance, you have National Insurance credits covering at least ten years of your record then you may still be able to claim some State Pension. In addition, you may be able to apply for the State Pension through a spouse or civil partner. You may also be able to inherit or increase a State Pension income if your spouse/partner dies.
If you have already reached State Pension age then you can contact the Pension Service to find out if your State Pension is correct.
They’ll also be able to tell you if you can claim Pension Credit and if you can get extra payments from a spouse / civil partner’s State Pension. If you’re in the UK, you can call the Pension Service on 0800 731 0469, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
If you’ve not reached State Pension age, contact the Future Pensions Centre for a forecast.
You can contact the Department of Work and Pensions about your state pension by calling the government’s Pension Service on 0800 731 0469.
They can provide all the information you need about your State Pension, including how to claim your State Pension and how to update your personal details with them. If you live abroad, contact the International Pension Centre on +44 (0) 191 218 7777.
The State Pension is paid every four weeks in arrears. Being paid in arrears means that your pension is paid for the previous four weeks, rather than the coming four weeks. As the State Pension is paid in arrears, your first payment is typically paid to you within five weeks of you reaching State Pension age. It then switches to a four-week cycle, with 13 payments each full year. If you live abroad you can choose to be paid every 4 or 13 weeks.
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