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What is the state pension?

The state pension explained: A complete guide

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Written by  Tim Heming
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Reviewed by  Jonathan Leggett
5 min read
Updated: 08 Sep 2023

Thinking about your retirement income? Get up to date on state pensions with our guide and arm yourself with all the information you need to know.

What is the new state pension?

The new state pension is a regular weekly government payment available to most individuals in later life. 

It was introduced in 2016 to try to simplify how the state pension works.

You can claim it once you reach state pension age and have a minimum of 10 years of National Insurance contributions. This applies to:

  • Men born on or after 6 April 1951

  • Women born on or after 6 April 1953

If your birthdate is earlier than this, you will receive the old state pension, which is more complicated but comprises two parts:

A basic state pension determined by your past National Insurance contributions

An additional state pension influenced by your National Insurance contributions, earnings, and benefit claims.

older couple abroad

What is the state pension age in 2023/24?

The current age you can receive the state pension is 66 years old. This is the same for both men and women. It will rise to 67 between 2026-2028.

How much is the full state pension amount in 2023/24?

The full new state pension amount will be £203.85 per week in 2023/24 but you may get more or less, depending on your National Insurance record.

What state pension will a married couple get?

The full rate for the new state pension for individuals in 2023/24 is £203.85. 

So, you will get double this amount as a couple equating to £407.70 if you and your partner have built up the full 35 qualifying years of national insurance contributions. This is an increase of 10.1% from 2022/23.

It’s worth noting that there are no longer any special state pension arrangements for married couples.

Each partner in the marriage or civil partnership needs to build up their own state pension.

How is my state pension calculated?

Your state pension is calculated using your national insurance record in the following way:

Your national insurance record before 6 April 2016 is used to calculate your ‘starting amount’, which will be the higher of either the amount you would get:

under the old state pension rules (which includes basic state pension and additional state pension)

the amount you would get if the new state pension had been in place at the start of your working life

(Your starting amount will include a deduction if you were contracted out of the additional state pension.)

If your starting amount is less than the full new state pension (£203.85 per week for 2023/24), you can increase it by adding more qualifying years.

Each additional year after 5 April 2016 will add £5.82 a week (£203.85 divided by 35) to your new state pension. You can do this until you reach the full new state pension amount or the state pension age, whichever comes first.

If your starting amount is more than the full new state pension, this amount is protected, but any qualifying years you have after 5 April 2016 will not add more to your state pension.

If you did not make national insurance contributions or receive national insurance credits before 6 April 2016, your state pension will be calculated under the new state pension rules.

You’ll usually need at least 10 qualifying years of national insurance to get any state pension and 35 qualifying years to get the full new state pension.

For example, if you have 25 qualifying years on your National Insurance record after 5 April 2016, you divide £203.85 by 35 and then multiply by 25. Your new state pension will be about £145.61 per week.

Is the state pension enough to live on?

For most people, the state pension is not enough to live on, but this will depend on your lifestyle and financial commitments. 

Although it increases each year to try to keep up with the rising cost of living, many people in the UK may feel they need additional income in their retirement to live the life they want to.

This means as well as the state pension, you might want to either consider saving into a workplace or private pension.

Alternatively, you might consider continuing to work either full or part time or claiming additional benefits.

Can I claim the state pension if I have never worked?

While you'll usually need at least 10 qualifying years on your National Insurance record to get any state pension, you may still be eligible for the state pension if you have never worked but received support from the state.

If you received benefits such as Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, or full time training, for example, you can build up National Insurance credits which go towards giving you a state pension when you retire.

Some credits you will receive automatically and others you will need to apply for. It depends on which type of benefit you are claiming.

Will my state pension amount increase each year?

Yes. The Government currently uses a method known as the triple lock to try to increase the state pension in line with the cost of living each tax year (April 6).

The triple lock means the state pension rises by the highest of value of either:

  • The consumer price index (CPI) measure of inflation

  • Average earnings between May and July of the previous year

  • 2.5%

Is the state pension taxable?

Yes, your state pension is taxable, but whether you pay tax on it will depend on whether you reach the income tax threshold.

You may do this if you continue to work, or have other forms of income, for example.

Your state pension is paid with no tax taken off. If it is your only form of income, then it is unlikely you will have to pay tax on it.

How do I claim my state pension?

You can claim your state pension through the government website

You’ll need the invitation code from the letter about getting your state pension. If you have not received it but are within three months of reaching your State Pension age, you can also request it through the government website. 

You’ll also need the following information:

  • The date of your most recent marriage, civil partnership or divorce

  • The dates of any time spent living or working abroad

  • Your bank or building society details

If you want to defer claiming your state pension, you do not have to do anything. Your pension will automatically be deferred until you claim it.

Deferring your state pension could increase the payments you get when you decide to claim it.

Can I get a state pension and a private pension?

Yes, you can receive both a state pension and a private pension

Your state pension is based on your National Insurance contribution history and is separate from any of your private pensions. 

There might be tax implications of having both a state pension and private pension depending on your overall income in retirement.

Compare private pensions with MoneySuperMarket

MoneySuperMarket has partnered with the experts Profile Pensions to help you get a private pension. 

Getting a plan with Profile Pensions is easy and they will compare pension plans so you don’t have to. The service is hassle-free, easy to use and puts you in control of your pensions at all times

They will choose the best investment plan for you, selecting funds from the whole of the market. You will also have your own dedicated Pension Adviser to help you. 

You will then receive a personalised pension plan tailored to you, where you can add regular or one-off contributions, or transfer over and combine existing pensions.

Frequently asked questions

How much state pension will I get at 66?

The amount of state pension you will get at 66 largely depends on your history of National Insurance contributions. 

You need to have a minimum of 10 years National Insurance contributions to qualify for any state pension, and 35 years to receive the full state pension, which is £203.85 per week in 2023-24.

If you turn 66 in the years that follow, the amount of state pension you’ll receive will likely be higher because each year the government raises the state pension in line with its measurement of the cost of living.

Is the state pension the same for men and women?

Yes, all other things being equal, the state pension in the UK for men and women is the same.

There is also no longer any difference to retirement age for men and women, which is currently 66 rising to 67 between 2026-28.

Will I get a state pension if I have never paid National Insurance?

You may still get a state pension if you have never paid National Insurance providing you have built up enough NI credits.

You can receive credits when you claim benefits such as Universal Credit or a Carer’s Allowance.  

Do public sector workers get a larger state pension?

No, public sector workers do not get a larger state pension in the UK.

Public sector workers may be offered workplace pension schemes to help them save for retirement, but these may also be available through companies in the private sector.