Confused about the government’s planned flat rate pension? Read on!
Can you delay taking your state pension to get the higher rate? What happens if you don’t have 35 years of National Insurance?

The government’s plans to reform the state pension and introduce a flat rate pension (they prefer to call it a ‘single tier pension’) are a bit clearer now they’ve published the White Paper. But only a bit. Lots of you have got in touch with questions about how the new state pension might work. Here are some of the popular questions.

Update:
The Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, confirmed on 19th March that the flat rate state pension would be introduced on April 6th 2016, not 2017 as announced. You can read the House of Commons statement.

Q. I’m due to retire before April 6th 2016. Can I delay taking my state pension until after then to get the higher rate?

A. No, I’m afraid you can’t. It doesn’t work like that. The key date is when you reach state pension age (that’s the date you become entitled to receive your state pension). It’s not the same as the date you take your state pension – because you can delay taking it – or the date you reach 65 or the date you stop work.

SAVVY TIP: Currently you can defer your state pension and either get a higher weekly pension or a lump sum. Under the plans for a flat rate state pension, you won't be able to take a lump sum.

Q. When do I have to be born in order to get the new flat rate state pension?

A. It depends on whether you’re a man or a woman and when the flat rate state pension is introduced. At the moment, the government has said it won’t be introduced before April 6th 2016 at the earliest, but it could be introduced after that (or possibly not at all if the new government isn’t committed to it).

• If you’re a woman, you won’t qualify for the new flat rate state pension unless you’re born on or after 6th April 1953.

• If you’re a man, you’ll receive the flat rate pension if you’re born on or after 6th April 1951.

SAVVY TIP: Quite a few of you have emailed me to say it’s unfair that women and men with the same date of birth will receive different pension amounts. The reason is that women’s state pension age is rising from 60 to 66 from 2010 to 2018, while men’s is rising from 65 to 66. I’m trying to find out what – if anything – the government may do about this. In the meantime, I’d recommend that you email your MP. You can find the name of your MP by using the Parliament website.

Q. I’ve only got 30 years of National Insurance contributions and I’m due to retire after 2017. I’m not working at the moment. Should I buy extra National Insurance?

A. In theory it’s probably a good idea to buy extra National Insurance so you’ll be entitled to the full flat rate pension. However, Malcolm McLean, a pensions consultant at Barnett Waddingham says it’s probably better not to do anything just yet. “Buying voluntary National Insurance contributions is a good deal, but the government say it may give people longer to buy the extra five years. So I’d advise waiting until we get some clarity.”

UPDATE - 22ND JAN I've had an email from the Department for Work and Pensions today which says that the government plans to give people who reach state pension age after 2017 until 2023 to buy National Insurance from tax years 2005/06 to 20015/16.

SAVVY TIP: The rate you pay for a year’s worth of National Insurance varies according to the year you’re buying it for (currently you can generally only go back six years and buy extra NI). This year (2012/13) a year’s NI costs just under £700. For that, says Tom McPhail of Hargreaves Lansdown, you’d get an extra £200 in pension (it works out at £4 a week).

Q. I’m due to get my state pension after April 2016. At the moment I’ve got more than £144 because I’ve paid into SERPS and the state second pension. What will I get?

A. Assuming the flat rate state pension is introduced on 6th April, the Department for Work and Pensions will look at the pension you’ve built up under the current system and what you’d be entitled to under the flat rate pension. You’d then be entitled to keep the better of the two. That would be the basis on which you’d carry on building up your state pension in the future.

Q. My mum is due to retire after 2016 but she was going to rely on my dad’s National Insurance record for her pension. I’ve heard she won’t be able to do that. What will she live on?

A. You’re right that women (and men) won’t be able to rely on their spouse or civil partner’ National Insurance record to increase their own state pension after the flat rate scheme has been introduced. However, your mum will be able to use your dad’s National Insurance record for the years up to April 5th 2016.

If she works between April 2016 and when she retires – or acts as a carer – she will be able to pay National Insurance or get NI credits. She would then receive a state pension based in part on her husband’s National Insurance record and in part on her own under transitional arrangements.

SAVVY TIP: If your mum had been due to retire before 2016 and your dad would have retired after April 2016, she would still have been able to claim a pension based on his National Insurance, even though his state pension date wasn’t until after April 2016. Sorry if this is complicated, but the government hasn’t exactly made it easy!

Q. I’ve paid the married women’s stamp. I’m due to retire in 2018. How am I affected?

A. If you’re due to reach state pension age on or after 6th April 2016 and you’ve paid the married women’s stamp – even if only for a week, says Malcolm McLean – you’ll be able to claim a state pension of 60% of the basic state pension.

Related articles:

The government's plans to raise the state pension age - when will you get yours?

Deferring your state pension - what are the options?

How can you increase your state pension?

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Posted by Barbara dated 2013-01-23 08:08:29
I am due to retire in 2015, which is the time they first talked about introducing the flat rate pension. I have built up SERPS which will give me £27 more than the basic rate now, but when the new flat rate comes in I will be worse off, this is unfair after paying extra in.
Posted by Joan dated 2013-01-23 19:01:19
I reached the state pension age of 60 in 2009 and am claiming my state pension. Unfortunately I paid married womens contributions for 11 years when my son was young and I could only work part time. This means that I only have 28 years of full rate contributions which equates to 72% pension entitlement. I understand that if my insurance record was underpaid I would be able to buy six years to improve it. Unfortunately because I made a mistake by opting for the married womens type of insurance I am not able to top up six years of the married womens contributions. I think this is very unfair because it would enable me to benefit from a higher pension. The governement says that changing the pension legislation will make things easier for people to understand. I sincerely hope it does because if it had been simplier and I had got the right information at the time I would not now be financially impaired. I am sure there are many many women in circumstances such as mine.
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-02-14 17:58:39
Hi Barbara Thanks for your comment and sorry for the delay in replying. The comments software has been having some problems, which have taken a bit of time to solve. When the flat rate state pension is introduced, you will not lose out if you have already built up a bigger pension than £144 a week (or whatever the flat rate pension is set at). You will not have to give up the pension you have built up.
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-02-14 18:00:47
Hi Joan, Thanks for your comment and sorry for the delay in replying. I completely understand your frustration. As you say, many women chose or were advised to pay the Married Women's stamp (or reduced rate of National Insurance) when the implications of doing so were not always clear. I know of a number of women who receive a pitiful state pension because they paid this rate of NI. It is not right and it is not fair.
Posted by Eva dated 2013-03-21 08:19:35
What is the position for people who are currently in receipt of state pension below the £144 a week rate. Will their pension be increased?
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-03-21 14:33:30
Hi Eva, Thanks for your question. I'm afraid to say that as things stand, there are no plans to backdate the flat rate state pension to people who reach state pension age before it is introduced (if it goes ahead as planned) in 2016. This has made many people - men and women who receive less than this - pretty angry and upset, but the government has always said that the change would not be retrospective.
Posted by \lynda dated 2013-03-22 00:44:28
Born in April 1952 and expecting to get my state pension in April 1912. Now I had to wait until May 2014 ( and so miss out on the new flat rate pension by 11 months.) Can I be assured that my pension date will not be moved further away than it is at 2014. How much notice does the government feei is fair to give people when changing dates that people have been give all there lives .
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-03-22 09:39:49
Hi Lynda, Thanks for your comment. The brutal answer to your question is that there's no guarantee that the state pension age will rise again, although the government is now turning its attention to the state pension age for people born in 1960/61 and later. It is possible/ likely that the state pension age for today's 30 and 40 something year olds will rise further - not least because the government has built into legislation the flexibility to raise the state pension age in the future, linked to increasing longevity. This is probably not much of a comfort, but I don't think it will raise your state pension age again because people are now supposed to get 10 years' warning. The reason so many women didn't know about the state pension age rise from 60 to 65 is that the DWP didn't write and tell them.
Posted by fluffy dated 2013-03-22 16:25:06
I worked full time from age 15 to 25 paying 10 years full stamp. [ 1960 to 1970 ] After having my 2 children I went back to work part time so that I could be home for my children when they came out of school. As my part time pay was very low and we needed every penny to pay the bills and mortgage I only paid the lower stamp. I went on to work another 28 years part time, making a total of 38 years working. For all that I get £75.per week pension. My friend stayed at home and looked after her mother, Her stamp was paid for, and she gets a full pension. My sister inlaw never went back to work after having her family,and she get almost as much pension as me. Why did the government in those days give us a choice of opting for a lower national insurance rate.? Perhaps they realised that all us baby's born in or just after the war [ which there were quite a few ] would all be claiming our pensions around the same time, so by offering us the choice to pay a lower stamp th
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-03-23 08:32:52
Hi Fluffy, Thanks for your comment.I can really understand your frustration - you must feel very angry that you're only getting £75 a week. I'm not sure that the policy of the married women's stamp was deliberately designed to stop women from getting a state pension - although it's not impossible by any means. Rather, I think the government of the day just didn't think about women. They designed a policy that assumed women and men would stay married and that men would work throughout their lives and that couples could live on less when they retired, which would save the government money. Often the effects of signing up to the Married Women's stamp wasn't explained and I don't think the government particularly cared what women retired on.
Posted by mazza dated 2013-03-23 11:25:23
Why did I have to carry on paying NI contributions when the Government took into account child caring years? I was advised, at the time, that as I had always payed full contributions I had actually paid enough NI to qualify for a full pension, however if I retired early I would be exempt from any more contributions but if I continued to work NI would still be deducted. D.O.B 15.4.1951
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-03-24 09:59:59
Hi Mazza, Thanks for your comment. I think I've understood your question correctly (I hope so!). I think you are asking why you had to pay NI when you'd already got enough for a full state pension? The answer is that National Insurance doesn't just pay for the state pension, but for the NHS as well. It's effectively income tax with a different name. That means if you're still working and below state pension age, you have to pay it.
Posted by Katie dated 2013-04-17 09:38:29
I always paid full NI stamp and worked from age 16, continously other than the years my two children were young (until the youngest was 11, I was then married and so covered by my husbands NI stamp. I am now 65 shortly 66, what is the state pension I should be getting per week and will it be cut in 2016 (I also paid Serps in one of my workplaces.
Posted by stanzalone dated 2013-06-26 16:38:13
I was born on November 1952 and my husband in August 1950. I think this means that we both miss out on the flat rate pension. We are low earners, having been either self employed, running own small business and/or part time earners. I am very concerned that we will lose out quite a lot because of this. What can we do??
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-06-26 18:45:27
Hi Stanzalone, Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I'm afraid there's nothing you will be able to do if your state pension age is before the introduction of the single tier pension. The only option available to you is to defer your pension, so that you receive a higher state pension when you do take it, but I imagine this might not be practical.
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-07-10 10:15:28
Hi Katie, Apologies for the delay in responding to your comment and thanks for leaving it. If you've paid - or were credited with - National Insurance for 30 years you should get the full basic state pension. However, you won't build up a state pension for the years that you paid the married women's stamp. However, you should have been credited for the full tax years when you were bringing up your children (under home responsibilities protection)as long as you hadn't elected to pay the married women's stamp during that time. I'm afraid that without more information I cannot say how much state pension you should have earned. However, as you have already reached state pension age, I can tell you that it will not be reduced when the single tier pension is introduced in 2016.
Posted by perrylou dated 2013-07-30 15:57:38
I retire March 2015 but my husband does not retire until May 2016. How will this effect a married couples allowance?
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2013-07-31 07:17:39
Hi Perrylou, Thanks for your question. If your husband reaches state pension age after you, you will only be entitled to a state pension in your own right. However, you would be able to claim a state pension on your husband's National Insurance record, as it stands up to April 2016. This will effectively mean that you will be able to claim a full 'category B' state pension (which is what you're entitled to if you claim on your husband's record). It will be worth 60% of your husband's entitlement, up to April 6th 2016. You can read more about this in a Department for Work and Pensions document, which you can access by copying and pasting this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/211457/foi-2634-2013.pdf
Posted by Wilko dated 2014-05-22 19:57:27
I will retire after the 2016 deadline. Born 1955 I have never given much thought to my pension but have just been presently surprised about how much money is in a private pension which is all pfrom opting out of SERPS when it was the done thing to do. After reading lots about the new pension reforms how will this affect me getting the new pension rate when it comes into affect. In the long run was opting out of SERPS the wrong thing to do
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2014-05-28 10:32:22
Hi Wilko,
Thanks for your question. I'm afraid I can't answer whether or not it was the right thing to do. You will receive less by way of a state pension as you've paid lower National Insurance while you were contracted out. That seems only fair. Some people have done OK out of contracting out of National Insurance, but not all have.
Posted by Elsie dated 2014-06-05 22:00:03
Hi, my husband was born june 1952, I was born sept 1962. I'm a full time carer. When my husbabd retires in 2017 will he get just the single person's state pension or will he get the couples pension. I'm worried how we will manage if he only gets the single pension. I'm not able to work as I care for my mother full time. Will my carers allowance stop when he retires?
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2014-06-07 09:16:22
Hi Elsie,
Thanks for your question. First of all, there's no such thing as a couples' pension; each of you can receive a state pension in your own right. But what you can do, under the current system, is to claim a state pension of up to 60% of the full basic state pension, based on your husband's NI contributions. When the new single tier pension will be introduced in 2016, women won't be able to do that. The only exception will be those who paid the 'married women's stamp' (the reduced rate of National Insurance that some married women paid). It's very unfair and it's something I campaigned about (you can see a submission I made to the government committee about this last summer by copying and pasting this link: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmpublic/pensions/memo/pb62.htm ). The only thing I would say is that if you are a full time carer you are entitled to National Insurance credits and you may be able to backdate those. You can read about your entitlement t
Posted by Elsie dated 2014-06-07 11:23:54
Thanks Sarah. So when he retirers our income will be just his pension of £144. Plus my carers allowance. I think panic and dispair will be the order of the day for us in 3 years time.
Posted by Sarah Pennells dated 2014-06-14 06:45:30
Hi Elsie,
Thanks for your follow- up comment and apologies for the delay. I was trying to get some extra information from the Department for Work and Pensions about whether you can back claim for Carer's Credits and Home Responsibilities Protection. The answer - as I feared - is that you can only claim for carer's credits in the tax year following the year you did the caring. DWP did say there is discretion to extend this. As regards HRP (which effectively gave carers 'credits' towards their state pension - but the threshold to qualify was higher - you can't claim for the years 2002/3 - 2009/10, but you may be able to claim for earlier years. I would either ring the Carers UK helpline - you can find their details if you copy and paste this link: http://www.carersuk.org/ or ring the Pensions Advisory Service - which is on 0845 6012923 - you can find their details by copying and pasting this link: http://www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk/home.aspx

 
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