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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Increasing your income in retirement

When you retire you'll need to make sure you have enough income to provide for your needs. You should look at what personal or company pensions are available. You can also increase your State Pension by putting off claiming it or by topping it up.

State Pension – how you qualify

You can get a basic State Pension by having enough ‘qualifying years’ of National Insurance contributions over your working life. Find out more about how this works.

State Pension – how much you may get

There are two ways to find out how much State Pension you may get. You can:

  • use the online State Pension profiler to get a quick estimate of your basic State Pension to date
  • ask for an estimate of the State Pension you may get, including any additional State Pension and Graduated Retirement Benefit, based on your National Insurance contributions record

Putting off claiming your State Pension

If you work past your State Pension age then you can choose to put off claiming (defer) your State Pension. You could earn extra State Pension later on, or get a lump sum payment. Find out more about the possible benefits of deferring your State Pension.

Paying voluntary National Insurance contributions

You might not have enough qualifying years for a full basic State Pension. If not, it's worth seeing if you can fill the gaps by paying voluntary National Insurance contributions. This could boost your basic State Pension.

You usually have to make up the shortfall within six years from the end of the tax year for which they are being paid. You may be able to do this even if you've already reached State Pension age. Some people can also pay for up to six additional years outside the usual time limits. Follow the links below to find out more about paying voluntary National Insurance contributions.

Credits for parents and carers (Home Responsibilities Protection)

If you reached State Pension age before 6 April 2010, you may have been entitled to Home Responsibilities Protection. This meant that the number of qualifying years you needed for a full basic State Pension may have been reduced if you were both:

  • not working or your wages were low and you did not pay National Insurance contributions 
  • caring for a child under 16 or a sick or disabled person

This protection applied to any complete tax year from April 1978 to April 2010.

From 6 April 2010, a new National Insurance credit for parents and carers replaced Home Responsibilities Protection. This allows people reaching State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010 to build up qualifying years through new weekly National Insurance credits for:

  • basic State Pension 
  • additional State Pension

Periods of Home Responsibilities Protection awarded for periods before April 2010 have been converted to years of credits.

Taking out a personal pension

Another way to make additional provision for your retirement is to take out a personal pension or a stakeholder pension. A stakeholder pension is a type of personal pension that must meet minimum government standards. For instance, you're allowed to make flexible payments and annual management charges are capped.

The advantage of a personal or stakeholder pension is the government will pay tax relief on the contributions you make to your pension fund. This means that for every £80 paid into your fund, the government will pay a further £20.

Joining a company pension scheme

If you work for an employer, check to see if they run a company pension scheme and if you are able to join it.

Make sure it's in your best interests to join the scheme. Ask the scheme administrators to explain the benefits the scheme provides and how much of your salary you will have to contribute.

If you change employment you'll probably not be able to continue to pay into the scheme. You will still be entitled to any company pensions that you have already built up when you retire. Or you can transfer it to another pension scheme.

From 2012 there will be a new way of saving at work. In the new system your employer will automatically enrol you into a pension unless you are already in a suitable scheme. Enrolment will be easy and you will be able to opt out if you want.

How many personal and company pensions you can have

You can have as many personal or company pensions as you wish, but each scheme will have its own administration charges. It may be worth seeking advice from an independent adviser before taking out more than one scheme.

Lost the details of your personal and company pension

If you have a company or personal pension, but have lost their contact details, then the Pension Tracing Service may be able to help.

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