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How to boost your state pension as women lag men

Lana Clements
Written By:
Lana Clements

Women on the new state pension get an average of £164.90 a week compared to men who pocket £170.51. Here’s how women can help themselves to bridge the pension gap.

Women also trail behind when it comes to the basic state pension, taking a median income of £146.39 while men received £172.68 for the quarter ending November 2021, statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed.

The gap between men and women has narrowed in recent years following the move to the new state pension.

In November 2021, 1.5 million women received less than £100 per week in state pension down from 1.67 million in November 2020.

Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The state pension gap is still narrowing, with the amount women receive continuing to rise.

“The introduction of the new state pension in 2016 has significantly boosted the amount women receive and we are seeing a big drop in the number of women receiving less than £100 per week in state pension.

“As more women retire into the new state pension system we should see incomes continue to grow and the introduction of auto-enrolment will see many more women further build their retirement resilience with a workplace pension.”

The full new state pension is £185.15 a week and the full basic state pension is £141.85 a week.

Under the current system you need ten years’ worth of National Insurance (NI) credits to qualify for a state pension, and 35 years’ worth to qualify for the full amount.

Women can struggle to reach the full amount because they spend time out of the workforce looking after families. However, claiming state benefits during these times can be used to claim NI credits and build entitlement.

Morrissey added: “It is hugely important women focus on building their own retirement wealth. The new state pension does not allow you to inherit state pension entitlement from a spouse in the same way the old system did, and so women’s state pension is based on your individual National Insurance record.”

How to boost your state pension

You can go online and check your state pension entitlement, where you will also find your state pension age.

Hargreaves Lansdown recommends the following tips to help women boost their entitlement in retirement:

  • Claim child benefit

Women in particular miss out on valuable state pension credits when they are at home looking after children. However, if they claim child benefit, they will receive National Insurance credits that count towards their state pension.

Many women have missed out on this in the past because their husband claimed the child benefit rather than them. But if you claim child benefit in your name, then you will get the credit towards your pension.

  • Specified Adult Childcare Credit

Anyone under state pension age and looking after a family member under the age of 12 while their parent or main carer goes back to work could qualify for NI credits under Specified Adult Childcare Credit. The working parent essentially transfers their NI credits.

  • Buy NI credits

If you can spare the cash, you can plug gaps in your NI record by buying voluntary class 3 NI contributions. Buying a full extra year costs around £825 and you can typically buy up to six years’ worth, though in certain circumstances you can buy more.

  • Claim Pension Credit

If you are over state pension age and on a low income then you may be eligible for Pension Credit. Pension Credit tops up weekly income to £182.60 if you’re single and £278.70 in joint income if you have a partner. It also entitles you to other benefits such as help with council tax and a free TV licence.