When to top up your national insurance to boost your state pension

If your national insurance contributions fall short of getting you a full state pension, you can make voluntary top-up contributions.

Should you top up your national insurance to boost your state pension? Reforms to state pensions mean anyone retiring after 5 April 2016 must have at least ten years' national insurance contributions to claim one, while you need 35 years to get the full amount of £8,767 a year.

However, if your national insurance record falls short, you can make voluntary top-up contributions, typically for up to six years after periods in which you didn't pay in full.

In principle, topping up national insurance is a good deal. It will cost you roughly £750 to buy each extra year. In return, each year after the minimum ten years you buy will generate roughly £250 of extra pension every year for the rest of your life.

The return is even higher if the top up takes you up to the minimum ten-year record, below which you're not entitled to any state pension.

Nevertheless, it's important to check your entitlement to means-tested benefits. If you expect to retire on a low income, with little or no private pension or savings and investments, there's a good chance you'll qualify for means-tested payments such as pension credit.

Extra state-pension entitlement will reduce your eligibility for these benefits, in which case there's no point in paying voluntary national insurance.

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