Despite 75 years of the State Pension Brits still don't know the facts

Published  31 August 2023
   3 min read
  • Less than half of UK adults know fundamental information about the State Pension
  • This is despite 1 in 5 of those currently retired relying on the State Pension as their only source of income  

New research from Royal London, the UK’s largest life, pensions and investment mutual, uncovers how few people know important details about their State Pension, which for millions will be their main source of income in retirement.

It’s 75 years since the State Pension was launched, but over half of those yet to access their State Pension (51%) either thought that everyone was automatically entitled to the full State Pension amount or didn’t know who is entitled. Almost two fifths of people (37%) thought that men and women were entitled to the State Pension at different ages, whereas the age at which men and women can claim their State Pension was equalised in November 2018, almost five years ago.

The nationally representative survey of 4,000 UK adults also showed that fewer than half of those not yet receiving their State Pension (46%) knew that men and women would receive the same amount of State Pension if they had made equal National Insurance contributions. A similar number of people (45%) did not know if married couples and individuals got the same or a different amount of State Pension. The rules say that someone doesn’t receive less (or more) purely because they are married or in a civil partnership.

Worryingly, almost a third of people (32%) thought they got their State Pension automatically and did not need to apply for it. There was also confusion about how much the State Pension pays, with the average figure people thought the State Pension paid being £534 per month, which is around £350 less than the current full monthly amount of £886 under the new State Pension rules.

Despite one in ten people not yet retired saying they would live off the State Pension as their main form of income in retirement:

  • 52% of those who haven’t accessed their State Pension have never checked how much State Pension they are likely to receive (accessed their State Pension forecast)
  • 45% have never checked their State Pension age and,
  • 71% of adults have never asked for a copy of their National Insurance record.

As part of the survey, respondents were told that the full State Pension amount was £886 per month, and almost half (48%) of those below State Pension age said that they couldn’t live on this comfortably, yet 69% of those yet to retire said that they had never worked out how much they need to live on in retirement, with almost two thirds (72%) of those aged 35-49 and those aged 50-69 the least likely to have worked this out. The average monthly amount respondents said they would need in retirement was £1,216, which is 37% more than the full State Pension amount.

Sarah Pennells, consumer finance specialist at Royal London said:

"The State Pension is the foundation of most people’s income in retirement, but for one in five of those who’ve retired, it’s their sole form of income. Living on £886 a month isn’t easy, especially currently during a cost of living crisis, and around a third (32%) of those we surveyed who are currently receiving the State Pension told us that they’re struggling and have to supplement it with other income or savings.

"With the cost of living challenges unlikely to ease any time soon, it is concerning that some people are heading to a retirement where they won’t have enough income for a good standard of living.

"I’d encourage anyone who has been putting off thinking about their retirement to make a start by getting a copy of their State Pension forecast. Once they know that, they can work out how much income they’d need in retirement to afford the life they’d like and can begin to plan what they need to do with their finances to start to bridge that gap. There are plenty of free online tools and resources to help you.

"The cost of living crisis is putting extra pressure on household budgets, but relying on the State Pension alone could mean many years of making very tough choices about spending for millions of people, so the more that people can do now to provision for their retirement, the more comfortable they could be in their later years."

Notes to editor

Royal London commissioned a survey by Opinium between 23 and 30 June 2023, with a sample of 4,000 UK Nat rep consumers.

State Pension:

  • Like the NHS the State Pension as part of the ‘Integrated Social Security System’ which was launched in July 1948, and marked 75 years in place this year. When it first launched, the State pension amount was £1 and 6 shillings per week –which is around £1.30, however is the equivalent of £60.48 in today’s money (source: £1.30 in 1948 → 2023 | UK Inflation Calculator (
  • For around 60 years, the age that someone could claim the State Pension differed for men and women; men could access at 65 and women at 60. The rises in the State Pension age for women from 2010 meant both could claim their state pension age from November 2018.
  • State Pension rules changed significantly in 2016. Changing to what was proposed as a simpler ‘New State Pension’.
  • To qualify for the new State Pension you must have at least 10 years of qualifying National Insurance contributions, but to get the full amount of State Pension a person needs 35 years of qualifying National Insurance contributions.

For further information please contact:

Nicki Parry, PR Manager

About Royal London

Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK, and in the top 30 mutuals globally, with assets under management of £162 billion, 8.6 million policies in force and over 4,200 employees. Figures quoted are as at 31 December 2023. Learn more at