State pension

What is it, how much do you get and can you boost it?

The state pension has been boosted by 8.5%. Most of us will receive some state pension from the Government when we retire, but it's a complicated system, so understanding what you're entitled to is important. This guide will explain:

Thanks to Alan Higham formerly of PensionsChamp and Danny Cox of Hargreaves Lansdown for fact-checking and their help in putting this guide together.

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How much is the state pension in 2024/25?

The full new state pension is now £221.20 a week – but as we say above, it's a complicated system, and many won't necessarily receive this exact amount.

You get your state pension – a retirement income from the Government – in exchange for paying national insurance throughout your working life (or by qualifying for national insurance credits).

And it's this, your national insurance record – as well as exactly when you reach state pension age – that dictates how much you'll receive, via one of two types of state pension:

  • Reached state pension age after April 2016? 

    The maximum 'new' state pension is £221.20 a week, though you may get more or less than this depending on your individual circumstances. This comes under the flat-rate 'new' state pension system, which began on 6 April 2016. 

  • Reached state pension age before April 2016? 

    Under the old scheme, the maximum 'basic' state pension is £169.50 a week, though you may get more or less than this depending on your individual circumstances. 

The 'triple lock'

The triple lock ensures that the state pension doesn't lose value over time, and in practical terms, guarantees that every year it will rise by the highest of average earnings, inflation (measured by the Consumer Prices Index) or 2.5%.

At what age will I receive the state pension?

You receive the state pension when you reach the Government's official retirement age. 

What that is depends on when you were born. The current state pension age is 66 for both men and women.

To cut costs, the official retirement age is gradually being raised. It has increased to 66 for men and women since April 2020, then it will rise to 67 by 2028, with a further rise to 68 due between 2044 and 2046.

To find your exact retirement age, see the Government's state pension age calculator.

How much state pension will I get?

How much state pension you'll get depends on various factors. Two of the most important are when you were born and how many 'qualifying years' of national insurance (NI) contributions you have.

If you're not already claiming your state pension, the easiest thing to do to find out how much you'll get is to:

Check your state pension forecast

This forecast will show you how many qualifying NI years you've already built up, and how many more you need (if any) to get the maximum amount of state pension. (You'll need to have, or sign up for, a Government Gateway account to use that link.)

We've more info below on how NI years work, but how they affect the amount you receive depends on when you reached, or will reach, state pension age:

Quick question

  • 'Qualifying national insurance years' affect your state pension – but what are they? And how to find out how many you have

    You earn qualifying national insurance (NI) years over your lifetime, either by working and paying NI contributions, or by qualifying for NI credits.

    • If you're in work, to earn a qualifying year, you generally need to earn a minimum amount of money during a tax year, and pay the required NI contributions. For 2023/24 these minimums were:

      For employees: £123 a week, £533 a month, £6,396 a year
      For the self-employed: £129 a week, £560 a month, £6,725 a year

      So, if you work full-time, even on the minimum wage or just a few days a week throughout the year, you are likely to earn a qualifying year. And these qualifying years don't have to be consecutive.

    • If you're not earning enough to pay NI – for example if you're claiming benefits because you're ill or unemployed – you may be able to get NI credits to fill gaps in your record. For instance, you can build up NI credits for time spent raising a family, if you care for someone who is sick or disabled, or if you've been enrolled in full-time training.

      Sometimes these credits are awarded automatically and sometimes you need to apply. You can check if you qualify for credits, but you need to wait until a tax year ends on 5 April before you can apply for credits for the previous 12 months.

    Again, check how many qualifying years you have by visiting the website, or phone the national insurance helpline on 0300 200 3500 – or see other more accessible contact methods.

Reached (or will reach) state pension age ON OR AFTER 6 April 2016? 

Your age means you fall under the new state pension system. How much state pension you will get (if any) depends on how many qualifying national insurance (NI) years you have:

  • To get the full new state pension (currently £221.20 a week), you'll likely need at least 35 qualifying NI years (though some will need many more). Crucially, you don't have to start from scratch from 6 April 2016 – any qualifying years earned before this date will count along with later years.

    Some people can get more than £221.20 a week. Under the previous state pension rules, workers were able to build up what's known as the additional state pension (also called the state second pension, S2P or SERPS) – a top-up to the former basic state pension. Although current rules have now scrapped this top-up, the Government has allowed many workers in their 40s, 50s and early-60s to keep their existing entitlement.

    Because anyone retiring now (or soon) likely built up most of their NI record before 2016, the calculation of how many years you need to get the full state pension isn't straightforward. The best way to check how much you're on track to get is to see your state pension forecast

  • To get some of the new state pension, you need at least 10 qualifying NI years. If you have that many or more, you'll get the equivalent value of the state pension according to the total number of years you've built up. So 23 years would give you roughly two-thirds of the current £221.20 payout, or about £145. As a guide to what you might get, multiply the number of years you've got by £5 – this figure is what each qualifying year is roughly worth.

    But there's a potential catch. Some years in which you paid NI don't count when working out how much you're entitled to, because they're not deemed 'full' years. This could mean you end up with less than you thought, in which case you may want to pay for more NI years.

  • You won't get any state pension if you have less than 10 qualifying NI years when you reach state pension age. If this is you, you may be able to buy NI contributions to get you over the 10-year mark. For people who have reached state pension age and are on a low income, pension credit may also help.

If you reached state pension age before April 2016

Your age means you fall under the old state pension system. Whether you get the full amount (currently £169.50 a week) still depends on how many qualifying NI years you have, but the rules also vary depending on if you got to state pension age before or after 6 April 2010:

  • State pension age BEFORE 6 April 2010? If you had less than 25% of the qualifying years (44 for a man, 39 for a woman) – 11 years for a man and 10 for a woman – then you wouldn't be entitled to a basic state pension. If you have 25% or more, it's likely you're getting an approximate pro-rata weekly income. In other words, if you've half the qualifying years, for example, you'd get roughly half the full state pension.

    However, if you don't qualify for the basic state pension and have no other income, you're usually eligible for pension credit, which ensures you receive a guaranteed minimum income. For more information, see our guide on pension credit.
  • State pension age on or AFTER 6 April 2010 (but before April 2016)? If you have at least one qualifying year, you'll get one 30th of the full amount for each qualifying year. Therefore, if you've 18 qualifying years, you'll get 18/30ths (three-fifths) of the FULL state pension.

Have you claimed child benefit anytime since 1978?

If you stayed at home to care for family, as far back as 1978, your National Insurance (NI) record may have been hit with errors that could see you missing out on £1,000s in state pension payments. 

We've an MSE News story that explains this issue in more detail.

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How do I claim the state pension?

While getting your state pension might feel like an official life milestone, you won't get it automatically – you have to claim it:

  • You will receive a letter reminding you to claim before reaching state pension age. No later than two months before you reach your state pension age you should get a letter from the Government's Pension Service telling you what to do. If you don't receive a letter, call the telephone claim line on 0800 731 7898, where staff will be able to discuss with you what you need to do. Alternatively, you can find other contact details for the Pension Service, including more accessible methods, on this webpage.

  • You then need to make the claim. There are two ways you can do this: by filling in a claim form online, or by calling 0800 731 7898 (8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, except bank holidays) or see the alternative contact details mentioned above. If you were born before 6 April 1951 (men) or before 6 April 1953 (women) you can also download a claim form and send it to:

    Pension Service 8
    Post Handling Site B
    WV98 1AF

How can I boost my state pension?

There are three main ways you can increase the amount you receive in your state pension – claiming free NI credits, buying extra years, or deferring. The first is a no-brainer, but the other two options need to be considered carefully.

1. See if you're missing out on free pension-boosting national insurance credits

If you have gaps in your national insurance (NI) record that are preventing you from receiving a full state pension, it's worth checking if you're able to plug them for free.

Employment isn't the only thing that earns you NI years that will potentially boost your state pension. Lots of other scenarios do too.

Some of these, such as being on certain benefits, earn you qualifying years automatically, while others need to be claimed manually to have an impact on your state pension.

For example, if before reaching state pension age, you cared (or care) for a family member under the age of 12, you may be able to claim what's called 'specified adult childcare credits'. These could boost your state pension entitlement by £1,000s without costing you a penny. For more info, see our Grandparents' childcare credit guide.

Or, read our NI contributions guide, which lists all the other scenarios where you could potentially be missing out on free NI credits.

2. Buy 'extra' pension years

If you've got spare savings and can afford to be without the cash in the short term, it's also possible to buy some missing national insurance qualifying years. This could lead to a big increase – you may be able to turn £800 into £5,500 in your state pension.

To find out if you can benefit from this, see our guide to voluntary national insurance contributions.

3. Defer your state pension

You can also put off claiming – 'defer' – your state pension. This can be useful if you're still working, as it means you could get larger pension payments later. Unless you claim your pension, it will automatically be deferred.

We've more info on how this works in our Should I defer my state pension? guide.

State pension Q&A

  • Why might I not get the full state pension?

    You might not get the full state pension for one of three main reasons:

    • You were contracted out. You may not qualify for the full flat-rate sum because you were 'contracted out' of the state pension in the past.

      Contracting out was a government initiative which began in 1978 and finally ended on 6 April 2016, when the new flat-rate system was introduced. It allowed people who were paying into a workplace or private pension to pay less national insurance towards their additional state pension in exchange for getting a higher private pension.

      You're likely to have been contracted out of the additional state pension if you are or were in a salary-related pension (also known as a defined benefit) scheme, or you were in some other types of workplace pension scheme before 6 April 2012. To find out more, see the website.
    • You're a stay-at-home parent. More than 200,000 stay-at-home parents or carers of under-12s risk losing some state pension because it's their earning partner who's registered for child benefit. Even if your partner's bringing in £50,000 or more a year – the threshold where child benefit starts to reduce on a sliding scale – the non-earner is still entitled to NI credits – so make sure the right person is registered. You can also transfer NI credits from one partner to another to boost your state pension.

    • You're a women who reached state pension age before April 2016. Tens of thousands of women are likely to have been underpaid the state pension, and many could be due £1,000s – some even £10,000s. Married women who reached state pension age before April 2016, plus widows, divorcees and the over-80s – whether married or not – should check. See our dedicated guide on this for more.
  • How often will I get paid the state pension?

    The state pension is paid into your bank account every four weeks. If you want to request a change to this frequency, you can call 0800 731 0469.

    What day will your pension be paid?

    Last two digits of your NI number Day your pension will be paid
    00 to 19 Monday
    20 to 39 Tuesday
    40 to 59 Wednesday
    60 to 79 Thursday
    80 to 99 Friday

    It's worth noting that if you look up your state pension forecast on the Government website, it will give you a monthly amount but your actual state pension will be paid every four weeks. So don't be concerned if there's a difference between the two numbers.

  • Reached state pension age pre-2016? Here's how the old system worked

    Instead of a flat-rate payout like the new £221.20 a week (2024/25) state pension, the previous state pension is made up of two parts.

    The first element is the so-called 'basic' state pension.

    This is simply worked out by totting up the number of eligible NI years you have.

    These qualifying years are earned by working and paying NI contributions in a given year, if you're a carer, or if you're on certain benefits.

    The most you can currently earn from a basic state pension is £169.50 a week (2024/25), a maximum level that rises every April by the biggest of the following:

    • Inflation in the previous September (as measured by the Consumer Prices Index)
    • The increase in average earnings
    • 2.5%

    This is known as the 'triple lock' – a device to ensure older generations get the best deal possible.

    The second element is known as the additional state pension.

    This extra payout is called SERPS (State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme), S2P or the state second pension.

    Like the basic state pension element, it is based on your NI contributions.

    How much you get largely depends on what your salary was throughout your career and, to a lesser extent, whether you've claimed certain benefits such as child benefit or carer's credit.

    You get the additional state pension paid automatically with your basic state pension and it increases every year with inflation.

  • Why did the state pension change?

    The Government said the previous state pension was hard to understand and unfairly biased against many – notably women – who took time off work to care for others or raise a family.

    Problems lie in the previous system being made up of two parts: a 'basic' state pension (worked out according to your number of national insurance years) and a 'state second pension', also known as S2P, SERPS or the additional rate.

    While the first part was simple enough, the latter caused problems with its complexity – particularly when workers opted out of it (knowingly or otherwise) in a process called 'contracting out'.

    The new payout was designed to make the whole process easier to understand, though it's still far from simple.

    The new set-up is also a huge boost for the self-employed who lost out hugely under the previous system since they were unable to build up any second state pension.

  • If I've got more than 35 qualifying NI years, does this mean I'll get more than the full flat-rate state pension?

    No. Having more than 35 qualifying national insurance years doesn't boost how much state pension you receive. The only way you may get more is if your 'starting sum' under the new rules is higher than the maximum £221.20 (2024/25) state pension.

  • I'm self-employed; does it work differently for me?

    Yes and no. In 2022, the Government announced changes to national insurance contributions which aimed to bring the self-employed in line with employees.

    Under the flat-rate state pension, class 2 and class 4 national insurance contributions made by self-employed people with a profit above £12,570 (in 2023/24) will be treated the same as employee contributions, and count towards the new state pension in the same way. This will include any contributions made before 6 April 2016, when the new flat-rate system was introduced.

  • Can I claim my state pension when I'm abroad?

    Yes, you can, as long as you've paid enough UK national insurance (minimum 10 years) to qualify. If you've paid into a social security system overseas that has a dual agreement with the UK, or is in the EU, then those years can count towards the 10 years.

    For example, if you have five years in the UK and five years in Portugal, then you'd get 5/35ths of the UK state pension. This is because the two periods combine to give 10 years, which meets the qualification, but only the five years in the UK actually count towards the amount. If you're unsure how many years you have, check your state pension forecast.

    To claim, you need to be within four months and four days of your state pension age. You'll also need to contact the International Pension Centre. If you live part of the year abroad you have to choose which country you want your pension to be paid in. You can't be paid in one country for part of the year and another for the rest of the year.

    You'll be paid in local currency – the amount you get may change due to exchange rates – and you can choose to be paid every four or 13 weeks. If your state pension is under £5 a week, you'll be paid once a year in December.

    If you live in the UK, your state pension usually rises each year. But if you move overseas, you're only entitled to an annual increase if you live in:

    • Gibraltar or Switzerland
    • The European Economic Area (the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway)
    • A country that has a social security agreement with the UK

    If you move to any other country, the amount you get will be frozen at the rate in place when you left the UK.

    If you have moved abroad since 1 January 2021 then some changes have been made in relation to Brexit – read the website for full details

  • I didn't make any NI contributions before April 2016, what does that mean for me?

    Your state pension will be calculated entirely under the new state pension rules. This is more likely to affect you if you were born after the year 2000, or became a resident of the UK after 2015.

  • Can I inherit my spouse or civil partner's pension when they die?

    Although your entitlement to the flat-rate state pension is based on your national insurance contributions alone, there are some circumstances where you can inherit parts of your spouse or civil partner's pension. What you get depends on different factors, such as:

    • The number of years they've paid national insurance. Essentially, the longer they've worked, the more you're likely to get, as there's the potential they have accrued more.
    • Whether your deceased spouse or civil partner had any additional state pension, protected payment, state pension top-up or 'graduated retirement benefit' (the earnings-related state pension people could build up between 1961 and 1975). If so, you could get more as there's more to pass on.

    Working out exactly how much you're entitled to is complex. The Department for Work and Pensions' online tool allows you to see what you may get if your spouse or civil partner dies, based on your own circumstances.

    If you reached state pension age and got married before 6 April 2016 and are therefore receiving your state pension under the previous pension rules, it's different. See above in the guide for more.

  • My spouse receives a state pension under the old system – what happens to their pension when they die?

    If your spouse or civil partner passes away, then just as in life, the pension you receive can be based on their national insurance contributions if their record is better than yours. For example, if you took a career break, you could use their years of NI contributions to plug that gap.

    In addition to their state pension, if your spouse or civil partner reached state pension age before 6 April 2016, you may inherit some of their state pension top-up and half their 'graduated retirement benefit' (the earnings-related state pension that people could build up between 1961 and 1975) if applicable. You may also inherit some of your spouse or civil partner's deferral payment if they put off claiming their state pension.

    How to work out what you'd get

    The Department for Work and Pensions provides an online tool which allows you to see what you may get if your spouse or civil partner dies.

    However, be aware that you will not get anything if you remarry or form a new civil partnership before you reach state pension age. There are more details on how this works on the website.

  • Could my pension be boosted if I apply for pension credit?

    If you don't have enough money to buy additional NI years to get the full state pension, your payout may be boosted if you apply for pension credit.

    Pension credit is an income-related benefit for low earners who don't qualify for the full flat-rate state pension of £221.20 a week (2024/25).  

    If you're eligible for pension credit you'll still be entitled to other benefits such as housing benefit. See our Pension credit guide for full information.

  • What happens to my state pension if I'm transgender?

    Your state pension might be affected if you're transgender and you:

    • Were born between 24 December 1919 and 3 April 1945
    • Were claiming the state pension before 4 April 2005
    • Can provide evidence that your gender reassignment surgery took place before 4 April 2005

    You don't need to do anything if you legally changed your gender and started claiming state pension on or after 4 April 2005 – you'll already be claiming based on your legally recognised gender.

  • Do I have to pay tax on my state pension?

    The state pension is taxable, but if you don't have any other income, you won't be taxed. You only start to pay tax if you earn more than £12,570 (in the 2024/25 tax year).

    That said, if you defer your pension, any lump sum income you take is taxed differently (this is only an option if you reached state pension age before April 2016).

    The figures above are only rough guides, as many other variables affect the amount you will get. You can try's calculator for an indication. The best way to find out is to ring 0800 731 7898 (option 2) – or see other more accessible contact methods.

    A pension counts as if it were any other income, so will affect your entitlement to pension credit, housing benefit or council tax support. See our Benefits check guide.

  • Will my state pension payouts rise with inflation?

    Your pension payment increases annually in April.

    There's a system called the 'triple lock' in place, which means every April the state pension amount increases by the highest of the previous September's inflation rate (based on the Consumer Prices Index), the increase in average earnings, or 2.5%.

    The triple lock only applies to your basic state pension entitlement. If you get an additional 'protected payment' on top, this will increase each year in line with inflation.

    It's also worth noting that your pension may not increase every year if you retire to certain countries outside the UK.

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