Most people are entitled to a State Pension once they reach their state pension age. Find out what you’re entitled to, when you can start claiming and how to top up your State Pension if you need to.
How the State Pension works
You can start claiming your State Pension as soon as you reach your state pension age even if you’re still working. The amount you’ll get will depend on your National Insurance record and once you start claiming it will be paid to you for the rest of your life.
Watch our short video which explains how the State Pension works and who can get it.
For most people, the state pension provides the foundation for their retirement income. So, it’s worth understanding how it works and when you might get it.
In this short video, I’ll explain the basics.
The state pension is a regular payment you can claim from the government as soon as you reach state pension age.
The amount you get will depend on what’s called your National Insurance record. This is a record of how much National Insurance you’ve paid when you’ve been working, or been credited with, perhaps because you’ve been unable to work.
To get the full state pension, you’ll need 35 years of National Insurance.
The amount of state pension you get in the UK increases every year in line with rises in the cost of living or other measures.
So, this is what the full state pension pays in the current tax year, as a weekly amount and an annual amount.
Tax year 2023 – 24
£10,636 a year
If you’re part of a couple, you’ll each get the full amount, as long as you each have a full National Insurance record of 35 years. And you need at least ten years of National Insurance to get any state pension at all.
As well as how much you might get, it’s important to consider when you can claim the state pension. The age you can get it depends on when you’re born. The current state pension age is 66, which means you can get the state pension when you’re 66 years old.
But the state pension age is due to rise in the future, which means, depending on your age, you may have to wait until you’re 67 - or older - before you’re entitled to claim your state pension.
Your state pension age
Your state pension age is the earliest age at which you can start claiming your State Pension. For people in their 40s to mid-60s the state pension age is currently between ages 66 and 68 depending on when you were born. You can check when your state pension age is likely to be but bear in mind this could change in the future as the state pension age is now being regularly reviewed and linked to life expectancy.
The new State Pension
The new State Pension is paid to people who reach state pension age after 5 April 2016 (this means men born on or after 6 April 1951 and women born on or after 6 April 1953).
In order to get any new State Pension, you need at least ten qualifying years' worth of National Insurance or credits.
To get the full new State Pension, you need 35 years of National Insurance or credits.
The amount of State Pension you get depends on your National Insurance record. Most people under state pension age typically pay National Insurance contributions on any earned income they receive. But if you don’t pay National Insurance you may get National Insurance credits which will count towards your National Insurance record. For example, you may get National Insurance credits if you’re claiming state benefits because you’re ill or unemployed, or if you’re claiming Child Benefit for a child under 12 years of age.
You’ll get a proportion of the new State Pension if you have between 10 and 35 qualifying years.
A qualifying year is when you’ve earned a certain amount by working or receiving certain state benefits
If you reached your state pension age before 6 April 2016 (that’s men born before 6 April 1951 and women born before 6 April 1953) different rules apply. Here, you’ll get the old basic State Pension. You can find out more about what you'll get if you reached your state pension age before 6 April 2016.
You can check how much State Pension you’re on track for. If your State Pension forecast shows you’re not on course for the full amount you can find details here of how you may be able to increase how much you will get. If you’re not online you can call the Future Pension Centre helpline on 0800 7310175 to ask for a forecast and any other questions you have on the State Pension.
State Pension rates
The State Pension amount usually rises every April. Currently, the State Pension is protected by what's called the 'triple lock', which means that it rises by the highest of prices (as measured by the Consumer Prices Index), earnings or 2.5%.
This table sets out weekly and yearly amounts for the full State Pension, for people who reach state pension age on or after 6 April 2016.
|Date effective||Per week||Per month||Per year|
This will probably be because you have gaps in your National Insurance record. These gaps will be for periods when you haven’t made National Insurance contributions or received National Insurance credits. This could be because you were:
- employed but had low earnings
- unemployed and were not claiming benefits
- self-employed but did not pay contributions because of small profits
- living abroad.
You may be able to make up these gaps and so increase your State Pension. This could be by paying voluntary National Insurance contributions or getting National Insurance credits. You can find out more at by visiting the government website or by calling the National Insurance helpline on 0300 200 3500. Make sure you have your National Insurance number handy if you call the helpline.
A couple of months before you reach your state pension age you should receive a letter from the Pension Service telling you how to claim your State Pension. You have to claim your State Pension as it won’t be automatically paid to you. You can claim it even if you’re still working.
Once you start claiming you usually receive payments directly into your bank account every four weeks. The payments continue for the rest of your life and under the current rules the amount rises by at least the rate of inflation each year.
No tax is taken off your State Pension payments but it does count as taxable income. This means the amount you get will be added to all your other taxable income for the year. If your total income is more than your Personal Allowance (the amount of income you can have before you have to pay income tax) you will have to pay some income tax. The amount of income tax you are due to pay will be taken from your other income and not your State Pension payments.
You don’t have to start claiming your State Pension straight away. You may decide to delay taking it (known as deferring) until a later date. If you defer, you’ll get a bigger pension when you eventually start claiming it.
Here are some reasons why you may want to delay taking it:
- You may still be working or have other income and so don’t need the money yet.
- If you’re still working and you start claiming your State Pension this extra money may push you into a higher tax bracket. For example, if you’re a basic-rate taxpayer and this extra money pushes you into the higher-rate tax bracket you’ll have to pay higher rate tax on some or all of your State Pension money (higher rate tax is 40% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 42% in Scotland for 2023/24).
- You may want to wait a bit so that you receive a bigger State Pension later on.
To get a higher State Pension you have to delay claiming it for at least nine weeks. Your State Pension increases by 1% for every nine weeks you defer. This works out as an increase of just under 5.8% for every year you delay claiming it.
Say you’re entitled to £203.85 a week (the full new State Pension in 2023/24).
By deferring for 52 weeks, you’ll get an extra £11.78 a week (just under 5.8% of £203.85).
If you’re not on course for a full State Pension or are worried about how you will manage in retirement, help is available.
Our pension calculator can help you work out how much income you’re likely to have in retirement from all sources including your State Pension, any work pensions you have and any other income.
If you’re on a low income in retirement you may also be entitled to other benefits such as Pension Credit or Housing Benefit. Charities such as Turn2Us (or by calling on 0808 802 2000) and AgeUK (or by calling on 0800 055 6112) have benefits calculators you can use to find out which benefits you may be entitled to.
Your questions answered
How do I check how much State Pension I am entitled to?
When can I claim my State Pension?
The state pension age is currently 66, but is due to gradually rise to 67 between April 2026 and April 2028. This will affect people born on or after April 6th 1960. The state pension age is regularly reviewed and further rises are planned.
How do I claim my State Pension?
You should receive a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) no later than two months before you reach state pension age. This tells you how to claim your State Pension. The quickest way to do this is online at Gov.uk If you prefer, you can ring the Pension Service on 0800 731 7898 and ask them to send the claim form to you.
If you haven’t received a letter from the DWP, but you are within three months of your state pension age, you can claim your State Pension anyway.
If you live in Northern Ireland, the system for claiming your State Pension is slightly different. You can find out more on the NI Direct website.
The State Pension is usually paid every four weeks in arrears, so your first payment will be for the previous four weeks.
Can I take my State Pension before I retire?
Yes, as long as you have reached state pension age, you can claim your State Pension. You do not have to retire in order to do this. The flip side of this is that you don’t have to take your State Pension when you reach state pension age. Instead, you can delay – or defer – claiming it. You will get an extra 1% on top of your weekly State Pension amount for every nine weeks that you put off claiming, which works out at an extra 5.8% for every year you delay.
What is the triple lock?
The triple lock refers to a safeguard that was introduced in 2010. It’s designed to make sure that the State Pension doesn’t lose value in real terms, and that it increases at least in line with inflation. The safeguard is called a triple lock because it ensures that the State Pension rises by the highest of three separate measures:
- Average earnings
- Prices, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI)
- 2.5 per cent
The way it’s designed means that if, for example, inflation and earnings are very low, the State Pension will rise by 2.5%, but if inflation is higher than earnings or 2.5%, then it will increase by the CPI measure of inflation. The government uses September’s CPI inflation figure to help set the State Pension rate the following April.
What is the maximum state pension?
You may be able to make voluntary National Insurance contributions for years where you haven’t already paid National Insurance, for example, or where you’ve paid it but maybe haven’t paid for a full year. Your State Pension forecast will tell you whether you’re on track to get the full State Pension amount, but it won’t tell you the years where you have gaps in your National Insurance record.
In order to find that out, you need to check your National Insurance record. You can do this online on the Gov.uk website if you have a Government Gateway account or you can telephone the National Insurance enquiry line on 0300 200 3500.
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