The State Pension often forms the bedrock of people’s retirement income, so it’s vital to find out how much you could be entitled to.
Although the State Pension is likely to make up a substantial proportion of your income in retirement, you’ll usually need other savings too if you want to enjoy a comfortable standard of living when you stop working. Find out more in our guide Can you afford to retire?
The full State Pension is currently £203.85 a week in 2023/24 (£10,600.20 a year). However, the actual amount you’ll receive depends on your National Insurance record, so it’s worth checking whether you’re on track for the full amount.
You can start by getting a State Pension forecast to give you an estimate of how much you’ll receive once you reach State Pension age. Bear in mind that the State Pension age is gradually being pushed back in line with rising life expectancy. At present, it’s set to increase to 67 by 2029, and again to 68 between 2037 and 2039. Read more in our guide How the State Pension works.
Here, we explain how to get a State Pension forecast, what it shows, and what to do if there are gaps in your National Insurance record.
- What is a State Pension forecast?
- What will your State Pension forecast look like?
- What is the Contracted-Out Pension Equivalent estimate?
- How accurate is a State Pension forecast?
- How do I get a State Pension forecast?
- Case study example
- What if you have a shortfall in your estimated State Pension payments?
- What if I’m already receiving my State Pension?
- Where to go for pensions help
What is a State Pension forecast?
As its name suggests, your State Pension forecast is an online or paper statement that provides an estimate of how much you’ll receive from the government when you reach State Pension age. The amount is based on the assumption that you’ll continue working (or pay voluntary National Insurance contributions/receive NI credits if you’re not working) until you reach State pension age. You can check your State Pension age here. There are several factors that’ll impact the amount you receive:
- When you were born. In 2016, the rules changed for pensioners born after 6 April 1951 (men) and 6 April 1953 (women). The Basic and Additional State Pension were replaced by the new flat rate State Pension.
- The number of ‘qualifying years’ of National Insurance contributions (NICs) you’ve built up over your working life. You need at least 10 years’ worth of NI contributions to receive any State Pension, and 35 years to receive the full flat rate State Pension of £203.85 a week.
- Whether you contracted out of the old pre-April 2016 Additional State Pension. This means that you chose to pay lower NI contributions before 6 April 2016, before the new flat rate State Pension was introduced. Read more in our article State Second Pension and SERPS explained.
- Whether you’re entitled to any additional pensions, such as the War Pension Scheme (WPS), which pays a pension to people who’ve suffered any injury or illness caused by service before 6 April 2005.
What will your State Pension forecast look like?
You’ll find out how much you’re on track to receive in retirement, the date you can claim your State Pension, and how to increase your entitlement if this is possible. You may find that you can, for example, pay voluntary NICs to plug gaps in your record. Read more about these and whether they are worth paying in our guide Is it worth paying to top up your State Pension?
The figures on your personal State Pension forecast will depend on your NI record so far.
You may find there’s a single headline figure for your State Pension, and this will typically be because you’ve already paid enough National Insurance to reach the full flat rate (see above), or because you’re within a year of State Pension age.
Alternatively, you may see a smaller figure that’s based on your existing NI record up to the end of the last tax year, and a projected, higher figure in green at the top of the forecast. The latter shows how much you could receive if you continue to work (or pay voluntary NICs/receive NI credits) every year between now and retirement. You could even find there’s a third figure, which shows how much you could receive if you paid to fill in gaps in your NI record.
Sir Steve Webb, a former pensions minister and partner at Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP), said: “There are a few things to note. The big figure at the top doesn’t include the potential impact of filling historic gaps, but it does show what you would get if you worked between now and retirement.”
“Also, if you had a big SERPS (State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme) pension built up by 2016 you could have a projection in excess of the flat rate, and this will also be a single figure, because once you are over the flat rate as at 2016 you can’t add to it.”
Here is an example of a State Pension forecast (based on the full State Pension when it was £175.20 a week in 2019/20):
What is the Contracted-Out Pension Equivalent estimate?
Your State Pension forecast may also include what’s known as your ‘Contracted-Out Pension Equivalent’ (COPE). This is the Additional State Pension that you would have received if you’d not been contracted out during a period of employment before April 2016 (before the new flat rate State Pension). Read more about how this worked in our article State Second Pension or SERPS explained.
Before April 2016, employees were able to contract out of the Additional State Pension. This meant paying lower or redirected NI contributions over the years and effectively accepting lower or even no Additional State Pension as a result. If you did contract out of the Additional State Pension, then when you retire, you’ll receive a contracted-out pension from your employer’s workplace pension scheme. The value of this on your forecast will only be an estimate, as the amount you’ll actually receive will depend on your particular pension scheme and the underlying investment performance.
Sir Steve Webb said: “When the State Pension system was reformed in April 2016, it was decided that it would be unfair to simply forget that contracting out ever happened. The government decided to calculate State Pensions built up by 2016 and make a one-off deduction to reflect past contracting out. This deduction is often shown on state pension statements as a ‘contracted out pension equivalent’, or COPE.
“One key point (which confuses many people) is that the COPE figure on the statement is just for information – you don’t have to deduct it from any of the figures on the statement, as all of that has already been done.
“The good news for those who have been contracted out is that once this calculation has been done as at April 2016, any years of contributions or credits from 2016/17 onwards simply add to your State Pension at a rate of 1/35 of the full flat rate. Years worked from 2016/17 onwards are added to your pension and slowly wipe out the impact of the deduction for contracting out.”
How accurate is a State Pension forecast?
Your State Pension forecast isn’t a guarantee of how much you’ll get at State Pension age, and bear in mind that government rules may change. Even so, your forecast is a guide that forms a useful part of your retirement planning.
As shown on the forecast above, there will be plenty of caveats on your statement flagging that the estimate is based on the current law, isn’t a guarantee, and doesn’t include any increase due to inflation.
If your forecast doesn’t look right, make sure to query it. There has been some controversy surrounding the accuracy of State Pension forecasts in recent years, with mistakes highlighted in the media.
For example, there have been cases where the government wasn’t aware that people were contracted-out during a period of employment. For example, Julia Medhurst, a former careers officer, appeared in several articles after she raised queries about her forecast of £164.35 a week in 2019, as it was substantially higher than her previous forecast. After getting in touch with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), she found that her true forecast was £129.66 a week – more than £1,800 a year less. There had been an error made by the DWP, as she was aware that she’d been contracted out of part of the State Pension, which people used to be able to do when there was an Additional State Pension.
How do I get a State Pension forecast?
Getting your State Pension forecast online via the government’s Check your State Pension forecast site is the quickest way to receive your statement. However, at the time of writing there the service wasn’t working because too many people are currently trying to use it. When it’s up and running, you’ll need to set up an account with Government Gateway, if you don’t already have one. You must give your name, date of birth, NI number and email to this, and you’ll then receive a user ID and can create a password. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to confirm your identity by submitting details from a few documents, such as your passport, payslip or latest P60.
Begin by clicking on the page’s ‘start now’ button, and either log in or create an account. You’ll need to scroll past the pensions section at the bottom and select ‘View your State Pension forecast’. Once you’re on the summary page, you need to scroll down the bottom and click on ‘print your State Pension summary’ for your records, if you wish to have this on file. You’ll receive a PDF version of your State Pension summary to save and print. You can also view your National Insurance record on your State Pension summary page, and save and print this if you want, too. You will also find information about how you can increase your State Pension entitlement, if possible.
By phone or post
If you’re due to reach State Pension age in 30 days or more, you can call the Future Pension Centre on 0800 731 0175 and request a posted forecast. This is a government department that focuses on State Pension queries and forecasts. Alternatively, you can download and complete application form BR19 from Gov.uk and send it to the Future Pension Centre to get a State Pension forecast. You’ll typically receive your forecast within 10 working days of requesting this, or completing the form, and there’s no charge to use the service.
Case study example
The following scenarios illustrate how your National Insurance record affects your State Pension entitlement, and how people’s State Pension forecasts will differ. Bear in mind that everyone’s circumstances vary, and you may receive more or less than these examples, depending on your personal situation.
Here, we’ve taken a fictional example of Mark, 55, who has been employed on average earnings all his working life, and will reach State Pension age in 2035, at age 67. We are assuming that Mark currently has 30 years’ of NI contributions, having worked full-time since he was 25. He has never been contracted out of the State Pension.
His State Pension entitlement is currently £158.70 a week, so £45.15 short of the flat rate State Pension at £203.85 in 2023/24. Each qualifying NI year accounts for £5.82 towards his State Pension entitlement (1/35th of the full amount). If Mark works another five years, he will have 35 years’ worth of NI contributions, and be entitled to receive the full State Pension. Any more years built up after this won’t count towards further State Pension – the money will simply be used to support today’s retired population.
Mark’s State Pension forecast will show his figure to date (£158.70) and in big print at the top the full flat rate (£203.85) because that’s what he would get if he worked to State Pension age.
Jackie, 62, worked for 30 years until 2016, and continues to work full-time on average pay. Under the old basic State Pension rules (in force until April 2016), this gives her a full ‘basic state pension’, currently £156.20 a week.
Her basic State Pension will be increased by the Additional State Pension (State Second Pension, or SERPS), as she was only contracted out of this for six years. This amounts to (for the sake of this example) an extra £20 a week. This would be added to her 2016 starting figure, so it totals £176.20 a week.
During the six years she was contracted-out of SERPS, her National Insurance contributions were paid into a workplace defined contribution pension, which she can use to supplement his State Pension entitlement.
Her State Pension entitlement is currently the full £203.85 a week. This is made up of her entitlement of £176.20 a week to April 2016. She’s received an additional £5.29 for each year from 2016/17 onwards, so she’s entitled to the full £203.85 a week in State Pension.
Jackie’s State Pension forecast will show that she’s already built up enough to qualify for the full £185.15 a week in State Pension by the time she reaches age 66 (her State Pension age). Her forecast may also include a Contracted-Out Pension Equivalent Estimate (see above) for the six years she was contracted-out.
What if you have a shortfall in your estimated State Pension payments?
If your State Pension forecast shows that you’re not on track to receive the full State Pension, you can contact the Future Pension Centre to find out why, and whether there are any steps you can take to increase your entitlement. As mentioned, you may be able to pay voluntary NI contributions to catch up for any gaps on your National Insurance record. Alternatively, you may decide you want to pay more into your workplace or personal pension, if that’s an option for you, to increase your retirement savings.
You can use our pension calculator to find out how much you’re projected to have in your workplace and/or personal pension pot at retirement, and how much income this may provide you with. Read more in our article How much should I save for retirement? You can also see the difference that paying more money into your pot could do to increase your projected pot’s value, and therefore your retirement income.
What if I’m already receiving my State Pension?
You cannot use the government’s State Pension forecasting service if you’re already receiving your State Pension, or if you’ve delayed claiming it. Some people choose to defer their State Pension to increase the amount they receive. Find out more about this in our article Deferring your State Pension – How much can I get and is it worth it?
However, you can use the government’s Pension Service if you’re already at State Pension age, but aren’t yet claiming it, to find out if you’re likely to benefit from paying voluntary contributions. Some people can still increase their State Pension payments by making contributions beyond State Pension age, but they’ll need to discuss their options and whether it’s worth doing with the Pension Service.
Where to go for pensions help
Planning for retirement can seem complicated, and it can be difficult working out just how much you need, in addition to your State Pension entitlement.
You can get more information on your State Pension, how this works and how to claim it from the Pension Service. If you’re not sure whether you’re saving enough to supplement your State Pension in retirement, or you want more help, you might want to speak to an independent financial adviser who can recommend the best course of action based on your individual circumstances. You can find a local financial advisor on VouchedFor or Unbiased, or for more information, check out our guides on How to find the right financial advisor for you or How to get advice on your pension.
If you’re considering getting professional financial advice, Aviva is offering Rest Less members a free initial consultation with an expert to chat about your financial situation and goals. There’s no obligation, but if they feel you’d benefit from paid financial advice, they’ll go over how that works and the charges involved.
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