People turning to DIY state pension healthchecks

The various households I’ve been in over the Christmas period have included some sick people. None have been near a surgery, AE or even a pharmacy, preferring to ride out their colds, flu and Covid using Lemsip and Cough Mixture. I have seen the queues and I understand why. I have also listened to two radio phone-ins and heard the testimony of patients who have waited over 12 hours just to be seen.

There are times, and this is one, when we have to accept we are where we are, the health service is in crisis and where we can self-medicate, we do ourselves and others favours.

It is the same with pensions where I have discovered over the Christmas period that what we get from the state by way of pension may not be what we have earned by way of our working career. My journey of discovery was sparked by this tweet.

I wrote a blog about how we can do our own state pension health check by comparing what we know about ourselves with  the DWP’s record of our working lives. Jo showed me the way

Jo’s tweet solicited a number of stories from women who had also been checking their records (examples at the end of this blog) and a tweet from the doyen of state pension entitlements

Ros Altmann has now joined this conversation, in a comment on my blog, she’s written..

I’m afraid I have increasingly been seeing examples where, so far always women, are not getting correct information from DWP about their state pension.

They go on the website and are told they have full NI record and this turns out to have been wrong. DWP then says they didn’t have full record and shouldn’t have relied on the DWP information being correct!

If this happens, I would have thought the women, who did not claim any credit or keep paying NI because they thought they had full state pension, should not lose out.

Some problems arise due to errors in contracting out history, many people have missing years and can’t prove the errors. So important to ensure people check their state pension well ahead and keep checking each year to make sure it hasn’t changed.

I’m not sure that what Ros is commenting on , is the evidence on this blog or part of a wider problem that’s beginning to emerge. We know of course that there are systemic issues at the DWP which Steve Webb has been highlighting for some years and again these seem to focus on women, but what is worrying about the instances highlighted recently is that they are so random.

The great pension reckoning

Pension providers have , for so long as I’ve been selling pensions, been calling for “greater engagement” from the public with their pensions. We are now seeing people able to engage with their pension entitlements, just as people can self-diagnose and self-medicate their health problems.

Rising skill levels amongst all age-groups when it comes to data management, means that literally millions of us will be able to check and challenge our state pension entitlement. Is this what pension providers wanted? I suspect that the pension dashboard will bring considerably more inquiries from savers – keen to understand if what they have in their pot or as an accrued pension is what they have a right to.

This is of course a shot to nothing, GDPR and the Consumer Duty combine in the Pension Dashboard to make it possible for anyone to check anything. As people wake up , not just to the value of their pension savings, but to their rights to have these checked, I suggest that the trend to self-diagnosis and self-medication with regards data will continue.

Pension checking  will put a lot of strain on organisations as varied as life companies, the administrators of occupational pension schemes and the DWP itself. Expect to hear much more on this as we finally move towards getting our own pension dashboards.

Because people like Ros Altmann and Steve Webb and Jo Cumbo aren’t going away and neither is this blog.

Further examples of women who’ve checked their state pension entitlements

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to People turning to DIY state pension healthchecks

  1. ros altmann says:

    Thanks for highlighting this Henry!
    The big point that is worth making again and again is that with all pensions it’s important to keep checking regularly to get updated information. Even with the State Pension, your record can change from year to year because of past errors being discovered! Of course, in an ideal world, this should not happen but pensions are far from an ideal world. If people think their State Pension forecast is set in stone, they may have a nasty shock – as so many women have done – when they find out the official forecasts and calculations have been wrong. Before we get Dashboards up and running for the public, perhaps it is good to encourage regularly checking, rather than just assuming all the information will never change. Ideally, of course, you would want people to get an automatic alert if their pension firm, or DWP, discover some new information that changes their past record. Sadly, not even DWP does this, so people need to check for themselves if they can (not easy I know!)
    Happy new year to you and all at AgeWage

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