How the rise in state pension age affects women – Mariana’s story

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I’m often asked by people (especially men working in the finance industry or politics) how the rise in state pension age affects women. I think some of them think women are making a bit of a fuss over nothing. So I asked Mariana Robinson, who was born in 1954 and who lives in Wales, to explain how she’s been affected. Here’s her story in her own words:

Early working life

I started work aged 17, married at 20 and had my only child at age 30.  My son was born with severe mental and physical disabilities.  I was unable to go back to work because of his care and hospital treatment for the next five years, and then started self employment again on a part time basis to wrap around his needs.  I was divorced in 1996, aged 42 and did not receive any of my ex husband’s company pension, no maintenance for myself and was left with all of the care, all of the mortgage but retained the family home, which was vital for my son’s well-being.

Confusing pension information

I was never informed about the changes to my state pension age (SPA) after the 1995 Pensions Act. In fact, my first pension forecast was in late 1995, just before my divorce, for the financial settlement by the court. This forecast said I would retire at 60.

In 2002, I had several telephone conversations with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after asking for another pension forecast. I never received it because they were constantly upgrading their computer systems.  In 2006 when I was investigating a mortgage to buy business premises and a flat above for my son, the mortgage broker alerted me to the fact that my state pension age may have changed.

I telephoned the DWP who confirmed that I would retire at 62 (in 2016).  Acting on this information, I took out a ten-year fixed rate interest only mortgage as part of my business plan, to coincide with my state pension in 2016 and selling the business to pay off the debt before the deadline towards the end of 2016.

Losing my son

On 12 July 2009, my son tragically and suddenly died from a brain aneurysm.  He was just 25 years old.   I also suffered a stroke at his bedside in intensive care.  I was now in hospital, my only child dead, and on the day of his funeral a week later, I learned from the DWP that my Care Allowance would stop and with it my State Pension credits. I did an online state pension forecast in 2009 and was staggered to find my state pension age had moved to 63 yrs and 11 months.  I thought this must be wrong.

In June 2011 I looked at the online pension tables again and found that I would now retire on 6th November 2019 – aged almost 66!  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Pension notification

In 2012, some 17 years after the 1995 Pensions Act, I received the only letter from the DWP stating that my pension age had changed. My new state pension age would be July 2019, following a minor amendment by the government after some lobbying by a number of groups.

It was all very worrying and confusing because the new SPA date meant that I couldn’t now sell the business as intended to pay off the mortgage debt – otherwise I would have no work for another four years.  A school friend born just seven months earlier had her pension in March of 2017.  But I have to wait over two years longer.  Where is the fairness in that?

Lack of notice

It is the lack of notice and unfair transition tables that put me in an impossible situation with my mortgage.  I tried several building societies, banks and mortgage brokers, but I could not extend my mortgage because I was too old, self-employed and I didn’t earn enough, under the new tighter lending rules.   I’m also suffering from severe ill health –  having had several major operations in the last twenty years. It means I’m now unfit to do my job properly but can’t get any help. I have now paid off my business mortgage, but only by borrowing from family and friends and I will have to sell my home.

Failing health and low earnings mean I’ve not paid enough National Insurance in the last two years to qualify for state benefits, so I’m forced to plough on, despite having over 40 years of NI contributions or credits.

Related articles: 

Men’s pensions are five times bigger than women’s, but why?

History of the state pension; 10 things you need to know about how it affects women

How generous is the UK state pension?

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