As part of your overall financial planning, one item that is worth considering is your state pension and whether you are on track to get the full amount. If not, it is possible to buy top-ups, which could boost your payout by £244 a year for life.
The 2017/18 voluntary payment, under the Class 3 National Insurance top-up scheme, costs £741 and will get you nearer to, or over, the threshold for the maximum state pension payout – currently £164.35 a week. Such an opportunity can be particularly relevant for those who have contracted out of part of the state pension at some point previously during their working life.
A word of caution though before proceeding – some people have paid the top-up only to discover that it made no difference to their state pension and subsequently struggled to get a refund from HM Revenue and Customs.
Some of the confusion arose because of the major shake-up in April 2016 when the single-tier pension system was introduced. Under the old system you had to have 30 years of NI contributions to get the full basic £122.30 a week pension, whereas under the new one you have to have 35 years. The top-up system was letting some people pay for extra contributions when to do so was futile.
Despite the problems encountered by some, Steve Webb, former Pensions Minister, says it is still worth investigating whether the additional payment would boost your future state pension. ‘Ironically, I think it would be really unfortunate if lots of people who could now top up for 17/18 at incredible value were put off doing so or didn’t do so because they were still unaware of the option, and where the decision to top-up or not is much more straightforward and less likely to go wrong,’ he said.
To know where you stand, the first thing to do is to get an official state pension forecast from the Government website. This will highlight whether you have any gaps in your National Insurance record of contributions. The top-up scheme can be particularly relevant for women who took time out to look after children.,
If you reached state pension age before 6 April 2016, the old system will apply to you (that’s men who were born before 6 April 1951 and women born before 6 April 1953). However, if you reached state pension age after 6 April 2016 (men born after 6 April 1951 and women born after 6 April 1953), the new system will apply.
You also need to work out if 2017/18 was a qualifying year for you – when you were under state pension age for the whole year and in which you either paid or were credited with enough NICs to earn one year towards your state pension entitlement.