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State Pension

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What is the state pension?

Planning for retirement can be tricky, but it's vital to get your finances in order so you can enjoy your golden years. The State Pension often makes up a substantial part of many people's income, for some it's their main source of income, one they've been counting down the days to get.

Provided by the UK government, it is a regular payment given to people of retirement age. Together with many other UK benefits, the rules were changed in 2016, meaning there are now two systems: before and after 2016. In short, there's the old State Pension and the new one, however, essentially, things remain the same.

For most people, the main grumbles surround the increases to the new qualifying age, for people of both sexes, which is set to reach 66 by 2020. Obviously, this has caused millions of people, of all ages, to re-think their future finances.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for the State Pension, you need to be at pensionable age, and have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions.
National Insurance contributions
Under the new system, you need to have paid 10 years' worth of full National Insurance contributions to qualify towards receiving a pension payment from the government. If you would like to see how your contributions are adding up, you can sign-up to the gov.uk website and take advantage of their online services, including your State Pension forecast.
Qualifying age
When you're eligible to claim your pension depends on whether you're male or female. In 2017, the age for men is 65, and 63 for women. However, this will gradually increase to 66 for both men and women by 2020.

How much will you get?

If you meet the criteria, the maximum amount you can receive from a State Pension is currently £159.55 per week. Married couples could get double this sum. This amount will change if you haven't paid enough NI contributions and it could be taxable if your income exceeds certain limits. If you'd like to know if you're on track, see how your pension is calculated by visiting https://www.gov.uk/contact-pension-service.

How to apply

You have to make a claim for your pension - you don't receive it automatically. You should be contacted by the pensions service four months or so before you become eligible, but if this doesn't happen you need to get in touch with them. If you're confident using a computer, you can start your claim online. Alternatively, you can call for free on 0800 731 7898. If you use a textphone, call 0800 731 7339.

Defering your pension

Sometimes, for financial reasons, pensioners decide to delay when their pension payments start. This could apply to you, for instance, if you were earning enough money to find yourself paying tax on the benefit. Anyone can defer their payments and then start collecting a higher amount at a time when they think it will be to their best interests. What's important is the date you become eligible to draw your pension, not when you start to claim it.
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Life insurance doesn't have to be unaffordable. This applies even as we get older, since policies are available which are designed to cater for the needs of those approaching, or over, pensionable age.

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