Everyone aged 55 and over will now be entitled to a free state pension statement the Government has announced today, but it's not automatic so you'll need to request a copy.

Up until now the personal statement service, which was launched last September, was only available to people aged over 60. Since launch it has issued more than 76,000 projections. (See MoneySavingExpert.com's Pension need-to-knows guide for the key points for retirement saving).

But from today the service will be extended to everyone aged 55 and over and the Government says around 5.5 million people will now be able to ask to receive the personal statement, which gives users an estimated pension amount (not guaranteed amount) based on their National Insurance record so far.

It will also give information explaining how a change in NI contribution or pension credits may affect their pension.

To request a copy, call the Newcastle Pension Centre (Futures Group) on 0345 3000168, download an application form from the gov.uk website or write to The Pension Service 9, Mail Handling Site A, Wolverhampton, WV98 1LU.

The Government hopes to gradually extend this so that everyone of working age will be able to request a statement, but for now it has prioritised those aged 55 and over as these people are likely to be needing the information as they weigh up their options under the new pension freedoms which come into force from 6 April .

The freedoms mean people aged 55 and over with a defined contribution (DC) pension will no longer be herded towards buying a retirement annuity. Instead, they will be able to take their pension pot however they wish, subject to their marginal tax rate in that year.

Although this is separate to the state pension, the Government wants to equip them with vital information about the state of their finances so they can plan accordingly.

Those nearing retirement will also be able to seek free and impartial guidance on their choices from April from the new Government service called Pension Wise (see the Free pension guidance services branded 'Pension Wise' MSE News story for more information).

'Crucial everyone has all the information to make the right choices'

Pensions minister Steve Webb says: "It's crucial everyone has all the information to help them to make the right choices.

"We are making sure people have the resources and support they need ahead of the new freedoms in April, so they can take the time to plan how to best use their pension saving for a secure retirement."