Millions get less than £100 a week in State Pension – ‘act now to claim what you deserve’

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Around 12.4 million Britons claim the State Pension, with women getting £147 a week on average and men getting £172. Yet just over two million receive less than £100 per week, of whom three quarters are women.

Too many women find themselves in dire financial straits because they are wholly reliant on their state pension.

They do not have any other sources of retirement income, such as company or workplace pensions, said Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Do not accept a lower retirement income than you deserve, she said. “There are several ways to boost the amount of State Pension you receive, by claiming certain benefits and buying National Insurance credits to make up for any time you spent out of the workforce.”

Ironically, it is often the poorest pensioners who fail to realise what help is out there, Morrissey added. Here are five things you can do.

Claim Pension Credit. More than a million pensioners fail to claim this retirement income top-up, even though it can transform lives.

Pension credit tops up your weekly income to £177.10 if you’re single and £270.30 for couples.

It also acts as a gateway to other benefits such as free TV licences for the over 75s and help with heating. 

Morrissey said only around 60 percent of those who can claim it actually do so. “We need to see further government action to raise awareness.”

Grab your National Insurance (NI) credits. To qualify for the full basic new State Pension of £179.60 a week, you need to have made 35 years of National Insurance (NI) contributions during your working lifetime. You may be able to plug any shortfall by claiming NI credits. 

READ MORE: £10,900 a year is not enough – here’s what pensioners really need

You may also be eligible for NI credits if you spent raising children under 12, provided you were registered for child benefit, or were unable to work due to maternity leave, disability or illness.

Registered foster carers, or those caring for a sick person with disabilities for at least 20 hours a week, may also be eligible. 

The unemployed who are looking for work or claiming jobseekers allowance, or those enrolled on approved full-time training, may also claim.

You should get NI credits automatically but some do not. Check by calling the NI helpline on 0300 200 3500 or +44 191 203 7010 if outside the UK.

“Women miss out on valuable NI credits when at home looking after children. However, if they claim child benefit in their own name, they will receive NI credits towards their State Pension,” Morrissey said.

If you are you under State Pension age and looking after a family member under the age of 12 while their parent or main carer goes back to work, you could qualify for NI credits under Specified Adult Childcare Credit. 

Essentially, the working parent transfers their NI credit to you.

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Buy NI credits. If you can spare the cash you can plug gaps in your NI record by buying voluntary class 3 NI contributions. Buying a full extra year costs around £800 and you can typically buy up to six years’ worth.

Check your State Pension entitlement. Get a State Pension forecast online at Gov.uk/state-pension-age. Have ID handy such as your passport and driving licence, and your National Insurance number.”

Otherwise, you can print form BR19 from Gov.uk. Or ring the Future Pension Centre on 0800 731 0175.

“This will also tell you your state pension age,” Morrissey said.

Becky O’Connor, head of pensions and savings at Interactive Investor, said: “Instead of purely relying on the State Pension, younger people should invest in personal pensions and tax-free Isas.”

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