BLOG: The five most-Googled pension questions
Pensions aren’t always easy to understand, and many people turn to Google for answers to their burning questions.
Here are the five most popular Google questions on pensions, and the answers to help:
1) How much state pension will I get?
This is the most-Googled question, but the answer depends on how many years of National Insurance Contributions you have totted up. National Insurance is similar to Income Tax and most people have it deducted from their wages automatically, while self-employed people pay it through their tax return. Some benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Maternity Allowance give people credits.
You need to have paid National Insurance for 35 years to receive the ‘full’ state pension, which is currently £185.15 a week (£9,627.80 a year).
People with between 10 and 35 years of contributions receive a smaller amount that’s decided on a sliding scale, with more years meaning a bigger state pension.
People with less than 10 years of NICs do not get any state pension.
Check how many years you’ve built up by visiting the Government Gateway website. You have to create an account and it will also show how much state pension you might get.
2) What is the triple lock?
The ‘triple lock’ means state pension payments go up each year by whichever is highest of these three figures: inflation, average wage rises or 2.5%.
Because inflation soared to a 40-year high of 10.1% in July, pensioners could be in line for a £962 rise in the state pension from April 2023.
The government looks at official figures in September to decide how much the state pension will go up by in the following tax year, which starts on 6 April.
The triple lock is controversial because it guarantees that state pensioners get an increase in their income every year while many working people don’t get a pay rise each year.
But we should also remember that the elderly are among the most financially vulnerable in society as they cannot raise their incomes easily. Pensioners find it harder to work more hours, change jobs, retrain or move for work, which are all things that people of working age could consider to boost their income.
3) What is the retirement age?
In the past people could be forced to retire when they reached 65 years old. Now this is classed as age discrimination and employers can’t make people quit their jobs because they are getting older.
Different retirement ages for women and men are also a thing of the past.
Most pension schemes set up through work or privately let people make withdrawals from the age of 55, even if they keep on working.
The age people start receiving their state pension depends on their year of birth. People born before April 1959 will get the state pension at age 66.
The state pension age is rising so people born after April 1959 will wait until age 67.
People born after 1969 should expect to start getting the state pension at 68 – although these dates haven’t been confirmed yet.
You will receive a letter ahead of your birthday explaining how to claim. You can check your retirement date here.
4) How much pension do I need?
There’s no figure I can give everyone, because it depends on how long you will live, whether you own your home and what kind of lifestyle you have.
As a rough guide, people need £10,200 a year to get by in retirement, according to the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association. This is over the amount people get with the full state pension (£9,627.80 a year) so you will need to put money into a workplace or private pension.
The £10,000 sum would be for basic living costs and wouldn’t leave much for spending on holidays abroad, eating out or spoiling family.
Check your life expectancy with an online calculator – you may be surprised as today people can expect to live 20-30 years or even longer past the age of 65.
The online calculator at Money Helper can help you arrive at a figure for how much pension you may need in retirement.
5) What happens to my pension when I die?
Passing on pension money after you die is called ‘death benefits’. Check the documents on any workplace or private pensions you have and see what death benefits are offered – many pensions will give your spouse or person you have named as your heir either a lump sum or let them inherit the remaining pension after you die.
Spouses and civil partners may also be able to inherit some of your state pension payments after you die. It’s not paid automatically; they have to make a claim for the Additional State Pension. The rules depend on whether the person who died reached the state pension age before April 2016 or afterwards, but typically any money your spouse is entitled to is added onto their state pension when they start receiving it.
If your spouse or civil partner remarries, they could lose the right to inherit your pension.
Annabelle Williams is personal finance specialist at Nutmeg