As part of your overall financial planning, one item that is worth considering is your state pension and whether you are on track to get the full amount. If not, it is possible to buy top-ups, which could boost your payout by £244 a year for life.
The top-up scheme can be particularly relevant for women who took time out to look after children or for those who may have been employed on low earnings, or unemployed but not claiming benefits. But to know where you stand, the first thing to do is to get an official state pension forecast from the Government website at https://www.gov.uk/check-state-pension. This will highlight whether you have any gaps in your National Insurance record of contributions.
As always, take appropriate advice on this matter but a word of caution though should you consider proceeding – some people have paid the top-up only to discover that it made no difference to their state pension and subsequently struggled to get a refund from HM Revenue and Customs.
Some of the confusion arose because of the major shake-up in April 2016 when the single-tier pension system was introduced. Under the old system you had to have 30 years of NI contributions to get the full basic £122.30 a week pension, whereas under the new one you have to have 35 years. The top-up system was letting some people pay for extra contributions when to do so was futile.
For men who were born before 6 April 1951 and women born before 6 April 1953, the old state pension system will apply. Those covered under the new state pension are men born on or after 6 April 1951 and women born on or after 6 April 1953.
The rules are complex but, as a guide to cost, a 2017/18 voluntary payment under the Class 3 National Insurance top-up scheme costs £741 (£14.25 per week) and will get you nearer to, or over, the threshold for the maximum state pension payout – currently £164.35 a week.
The aim of this Focus is to offer a reminder to you to check if you are on track for the maximum state pension. If you need any assistance doing so, please do not hesitate to contact us. Remember – we are always here to help.
We have set out above what is only a brief summary of some points that involve quite complex rules – always take appropriate advice.
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