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How your State Pension is worked out

Most people are entitled to some State Pension. The amount you get depends on how many qualifying years of National Insurance contributions you have. Find out how your State Pension is worked out.

Building up qualifying years

The amount of State Pension you get depends on how many qualifying years of National Insurance you have built up. Each qualifying year counts towards your State Pension.

You usually build up qualifying years if you are:

  • in paid full-time or part-time work
  • self-employed
  • caring for someone for over 20 hours a week
  • getting Child Benefit
  • receiving certain benefits
  • in full-time training

These activities mean you either pay National Insurance contributions or get credited with National Insurance contributions by the government to get a qualifying year.

To get the full basic State Pension, most people need to have built up 30 qualifying years. If you are missing any qualifying years, you may be able to make voluntary National Insurance contributions.

You pay National Insurance contributions until you reach your State Pension age, no matter how many qualifying years you have. After you have 30 qualifying years, you may still be able to make contributions towards the additional State Pension.

When you reach State Pension age, the government looks at your National Insurance contributions record to work out how much State Pension you can get. If you have fewer than 30 qualifying years, you will get less than the full amount of basic State Pension.

Qualifying years for people who reached State Pension age before 6 April 2010

Men born before 6 April 1945 usually need 44 qualifying years. Women born before 6 April 1950 usually need 39 qualifying years. See 'Qualifying for a basic State Pension' to find out more.

Contributing towards your State Pension: myths and facts

Below are some common myths about contributing towards the State Pension - and the facts.

Myth: "You have to be working to make National Insurance contributions"

Fact: You can usually pay National Insurance contributions voluntarily, even if you're not working, but there are time limits. But you may not need to do this if you're getting National Insurance credits from the government. For instance, you may get credits if you are:

Myth: "There's no point saving for retirement - it just means you get less State Pension"

Fact: The amount you save has no effect on your State Pension. Whether you have savings accounts, personal pensions, property or other sources of income, your State Pension will remain the same.

People sometimes confuse the State Pension with Pension Credit, which is means tested. If you are on a low income in retirement you may get Pension Credit to top up your State Pension income.

If you are over 65 you can still get Pension Credit even if your income (including pension or savings) is:

  • up to £190.35 weekly for a single person
  • up to £278.20 weekly for a couple

The first £10,000 of savings are disregarded. For savings over £10,000, £1 for every £500 or part £500 is added to your weekly income. This means you should still be better off than if you had no savings.

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