Am I getting a full state pension (and what can I do if I’m not)?

Martin Lewis’s call to action on this question is one of the BBC’s top five things they’ve learned from Martin this year. Martin ends his comments saying  you should look further into this, in this blog, I help you do just that.

Here’s what Martin is telling us

“If you are aged 45-70, you should be checking now if you’re able to boost your state pension…if you’re not in that age category, it might help someone you know,

A new state pension was introduced on 6 April 2016, so this applies to those reaching state pension age after this date.

Your state pension amount is based on the number of qualifying National Insurance (NI) years, or credits, that you’ve earned.

You collect these by working and earning a minimum of £123/week, or through benefits in some circumstances such as unpaid carers, those living with a disability or raising children.

You need 35 years/credits to get the new state pension.

“You can buy more years,” (known as voluntary NI years), however, only until April 2023.

“You can buy back NI years dating all the way back to 2006. After April 2023, you’ll only be able to go back six years”, Martin explains.

“The window of opportunity for buying back those older years is soon to shut.”

Cue the Martin Lewis disclaimer: “don’t just rely on what you are hearing in the podcast. This is very complex. I am giving you a call to arms as to whether you should be checking out if this is worth doing,” he says.


For most people, getting 35 qualifying years to max your state pension isn’t hard. One way or another most of us have got credits whether we’ve been employed, self-employed or even unemployed. The DWP has a website that tells you if you are entitled to national insurance credits for a large range of circumstances. Here is the link

The simplest way to check if you are receiving HRP / NI credits is to look at your NI record.

You can do this either on the ‘check state pension’ website or via the HMRC National Insurance record website.  You can also ring the National Insurance Contribution helpline.

The trouble is that most of us don’t know when we’re NOT earning credits. Here’s a list of the most common periods of your life when you’re missing out

  • a married woman paying reduced rate National Insurance
  • self-employed and don’t pay Class 2 National Insurance because you
    • have profits of less than £6,725 a year from your self-employment
    • have a specific job (such as an examiner or business owner in property or land) and you do not pay Class 2 National Insurance through Self Assessment
  • If you’ve had a workplace, personal or stakeholder pension in the past and been paying reduced National Insurance contributions (known as ‘contracting out’), your starting amount may be less than the full amount. Contracting out has ended under the new system.
  • Been out of the country and working in a company that doesn’t have a social security agreement with the UK , this is complicated as rules are different for differing countries, more information is here
  • when you are  a Mum and you aren’t claiming  Child Benefit, this is particularly complicated and you should read Steve Webb’s article “Mother’s missing Millions” to find out the rulesIf you opted out of receiving child benefit to avoid paying the High Income Child Benefit Tax Charge, then you will have missed out on National Insurance credits. It is a good idea to register for them as soon as you can (just say no to the payment) to accumulate future credits. And, if you are working, then you can instead pass the National Insurance credits to grandparents if they take on childcare and are not working.

    You can backdate the child benefit for up to three months.

There are a number of dispensations offered by the Government – such as swapping credits with  your spouse that you can use to bump up your national insurance credits, but back in 2019 the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) data revealed that of the 1.1 million people who receive the new state pension, only 44 per cent or just under 500,000 pensioners receive the full amount.

For people getting the old state pension (which started before April 2016), there’s a also a number getting a lower amount , sadly these people cannot buy added years after April of next year but there is still a three month window when they can

Until 5 April 2023, you can buy national insurance (NI) years to fill gaps going back to 2006. When these transitional arrangements end, the number of extra years you can purchase drops down to the last six tax years, so checking now is key.

A word of warning

Some areas of national insurance credit are vague and open to dispute. Jo Cumbo, who is one of our top pension journalists found one of these when she was looking into her own situation.

To dispute what you see as an error , you need evidence

So in conclusion, it’s important to check your state pension , whether you are getting it or waiting for it

Like any Government department, the DWP can make errors but the DWP does have the good grace to admit it can be wrong and if you get evidence , you can contest the amount you get.

For people who retired before April 2016, the opportunity to bump up your state pension entitlement goes on 6th April 2023

You will have to work out for yourself whether buying added national insurance credits to get you extra state pensions will be the subject of a future article, but right now, working out whether you have a full entitlement is the main thing.

And a few words on Pension Credit

If you are over state pension age, living in the UK and if you don’t have the full state pension entitlement, you should consider applying for pension credit. Generally you won’t get a claim through if you have a reasonable amount in a personal or occupational pension, but small pots and small pensions can actually qualify you for pension credits (extra state pension) as “saver’s credit”.  Pension Credit is a door to more benefits including help with housing costs, extra help with fuel bills and the headline free TV licence. Details here.

The majority of people failing to pick up their pension credit are thought to be currently receiving the old state pension (retiring before April 2016).

Pension Credit – It’s for you! Our campaign is launched.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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2 Responses to Am I getting a full state pension (and what can I do if I’m not)?

  1. Pingback: Is it worth buying added years to get a full state pension? | AgeWage: Making your money work as hard as you do

  2. Pingback: Mark Ormston on the price of securing “retirement living standards” | AgeWage: Making your money work as hard as you do

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