Top tips to boost your state pension: Steps you could take now to ensure a more comfortable retireme

For most of us, the state pension makes up an important part of our income when we retire, providing a boost to workplace pensions or other savings.

But are you in line to get as much state pension as you could? It is worth understanding how the new state pension works and seeing whether there is anything you can do to get more.

The new state pension was introduced for people reaching state pension age from 6 April 2016 onwards.

It is normally based on your personal National Insurance (NI) record and you will usually need to have paid a minimum of 10 years of NI contributions to qualify.


There are simple ways to see if you could boost your state pension

It's possible to add years to your NI record by paying contributions while you are working - whether you're employed or self-employed.

In certain circumstances you can also add years by receiving National Insurance credits or making voluntary contributions. These years can be spread out over your life and don’t have to be 10 years in a row.

If you don’t have enough years on your record to get any state pension, or you want to add more years in order to increase the amount you might get, there are some simple ways you may be able to boost your state pension - here are This is Money's top tips.

Check your state pension

It’s important to keep track of how much state pension you could get. Knowing early what you’re likely to receive from your state pension, and the earliest point you can get it, can help you plan the rest of your finances much more effectively.

This can now be done quickly online: Check how much State Pension you could get and the earliest you can get it.

This will also show you how much National Insurance you have on your record, whether you have any gaps and whether paying to fill these gaps may improve your state pension forecast.

You may be able to apply for National Insurance credits or make voluntary National Insurance contributions to fill any gaps and help you to get the most new state pension you can

Are you entitled to National Insurance credits?

Many of us change jobs multiple times during our careers. Some of us may also become self-employed for all or part of our working lives, or take time off to travel or to care for young children or family members. This is reflected in your National Insurance record.

Some of these circumstances could affect how much National Insurance we pay, or may mean we are entitled to receive National Insurance credits.

For example, there are National Insurance credits available for many caring responsibilities. Similarly, you may be entitled to credits if you’ve travelled abroad on an accompanied assignment with a spouse or civil partner serving in the armed forces.

Government figures suggest that around 100,000 grandparents under state pension age are eligible for specified adult childcare credit but don't currently claim it.

If you spend time caring for a relative’s children who are under the age of 12, such as your grandchildren, even if it is only for a few hours a week you could be entitled to claim this National Insurance credit which counts towards your state pension.

To find out more about whether you could qualify, take a look at the Government website. You can apply for carer's credit by filling in a simple form.

Can you make voluntary National Insurance contributions?

You may be able to pay voluntary contributions to fill gaps in your record.

This is usually done though Class 3 voluntary National Insurance contributions.

Paying voluntary contributions might not be right for everyone - find out more about this option and whether it might be right for you.


The Government provides online tools to help you work out how much NI you've paid

Keep working after you reach state pension age

Many people choose to continue working part-time, and combine employment with caring for older relatives and grandchildren.

The end of the default retirement age (which was 65 for most people) means you can now usually work for as long as you want to.

Your employer may be happy for you to phase your retirement and change to flexible or part-time hours. Find out your state pension age.

If you do continue to work after reaching state pension age, you’ll no longer have to pay National Insurance.

Defer drawing your state pension

If you wait to draw your state pension until you’re older than your state pension age, you may be entitled to an increased weekly payment. This is known as deferring your state pension.

If you’ve already started to draw a state pension, you can also opt to pause your payments for a period. This may also increase your payments when you restart.

The amount of increase you receive will depend on when you reached state pension age.

Again, this might not be the right option for everyone and it’s always worth finding out more before making any decisions.


Have you lost track of your pensions? The Pension Tracing Service could help you

Save into a workplace or private pension

A pension scheme from your employer can really boost your retirement income. By 2018 all employers will have to automatically enrol their eligible workers into a workplace pension scheme making it easier to save for retirement.

It’s worth checking out what your workplace or private pension will offer you when you retire. The date you can claim it and the amount you get will depend on the scheme you’re been saving into. Get in touch with your pension provider to find out more.

Track down lost pension pots

As the number of jobs we have in our lifetimes increases, it is easy to lose track of pension pots accrued over the years.

The Government provides a service to help you to track down any lost workplace pension pots.

Providing you have the name of your previous employer or pension provider, the Pension Tracing Service should be able to provide you with contact details so that you can get in touch with your pension provider to find out what your pot is worth.

It can be well worth it if you find you've saved several thousand pounds that could be put to good use.

Decide what to do with your pension freedom

Pension Wise is a free and impartial guidance service set up by the Government to help people understand their pension options.

You must be 50 or over with a defined contribution workplace or personal pension to be eligible for an appointment.

Appointments can take place either over the telephone or face-to-face in hundreds of locations across the country.

Visit Pension Wise for more information or call 0800 138 3944 to book an appointment.

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