Planning for your retirement is essential. You want to know when you'll be retiring and what kind of pension you'll be receiving. But it's not enough to merely have a plan – you also need to stay on top of the latest developments regarding the State Pension. The UK Government is currently in the process of increasing the State Pension age, which could have an impact on when you can retire. What does this mean to you?
The official State Pension age has slowly been going up. Because we are living longer, the Government wants us to keep working for longer too.
Your State Pension age is the earliest age you can start receiving the State Pension. The State Pension age currently depends on two factors: your gender and date of birth. The current State Pension age is 65, but this is about the change very soon!
Changes to the Official State Pension Age
The UK Government has been in the process of increasing the official State Pension age to 66. The objective is to make it the same for both men and women, and your pension age wouldn’t be tied to your date of birth any longer.
The official State Pension age will change twice in the coming months.
The first change happens on 6 September, when the State Pension age will increase from 65 to 66 for anyone born between 6 September 1954 and 5 October 1954.
From 6 October, the second phase of the change will kick in, and the State Pension age will increase to 66 for everyone.
The UK Government is not stopping there. The official State Pension age will then increase to 68 between 2037 and 2039.
How to Check Your State Pension Age
Because the official State Pension age can still vary based on when you were born, you should consider checking out what these changes mean to you.
The Government has a handy tool that allows you to check your State Pension age. The tool is free and easy to use, and it gives you an exact date for qualifying for the State Pension.
You can find the tool here. To calculate your pension age, you have to:
- Select that you want to calculate your Pension Age.
- Input your date of birth.
- Choose your gender.
You’ll then receive the exact date that you’ll reach State Pension age. You can find out how much State Pension is and how to apply for it from our guide.
Can You Retire Earlier Than Your State Pension Age?
The upcoming increases to the Pension State age might cause you concern. What happens if you were planning to retire at 65 or even earlier?
Proper retirement planning makes it possible to retire earlier than the official State Pension age. However, you need to be aware of the fact that you won’t receive State Pension until you reach the official State Pension age. If you want to retire earlier, you’ll need to have to rely on another pension or other source of income.
State Pension and Early Retirement
You should also keep in mind that retiring before you reach the State Pension age could impact how much State Pension you’ll get.
You could receive less because you might not build enough ‘qualifying years’. A qualifying year refers to a tax year in which you had enough earnings to make National Insurance Contributions (NICs).
The good news is that you can boost your NICs record. You can make voluntary payments if:
- You work part-time and earning under £120 per week, or you are self-employed and have profits of under £6,475.
- Live or work abroad.
- Your unemployed but you aren’t claiming any benefits.
You can make voluntary contributions for the past six years. The deadline for voluntary contributions is 5 April.
For example, you can make voluntary contributions as far back as the tax year 2014/15, if you make a payment before 5 April 2021.
The rate is typically based on the current NI rate. When you make a voluntary contribution, you pay either Class 2 or Class 3 NI rate. The right rate depends on your situation.
For instance, as a self-employed individual, you could pay either. However, if you are unemployed and not claiming any benefits, you would pay the Class 3 rate.
For the 2020/21 tax year, the rates are:
- £3.05 per week for Class 2.
- £15.30 per week for Class 3.
You should also remember that you can build your qualifying years if you’re eligible for National Insurance credits. You can receive NI credits if you’re claiming benefits because of illness or unemployment.
Early Retirement and Private Pensions
How your plan of early retirement impacts your private pensions depends on the kind of pension you have. You can usually start taking a workplace pension at 55, but it does change from pension to pension. Retiring earlier tends to come with smaller private pension payments.
Workplace pensions are typically divided into two:
- Defined contribution pension – Known as money purchase schemes and based on the contributions you make over the years. The pensions are typically smaller the fewer years you contribute to them.
- Defined benefit pension – Known as final salary pensions because they are usually based on a fraction of your salary, multiplied by the number of years you had the pension.
Employers sometimes offer incentives to these pensions for those looking to retire early. These can be lump-sum payments to boost the value of your defined contribution pension or pension benefits worked out as if you had worked up to the normal retirement age.
Make sure you check the conditions of your pension and talk to your employer or pension provider if you are planning for early retirement.
Having a retirement plan is essential, and a successful plan needs reviewing from time to time. You should make calculations about your current trajectory and ensure you stay on top any changes to State Pension. Knowing what you’ll be receiving and when can make your retirement a more stress-free experience!