How to top up your state pension

To get the full state pension, you will need to have made national insurance contributions for at least 35 years, But if don't qualify, you may be able to do something about it.

Fewer than half of those who have retired since state-pension reforms were introduced in 2016 have qualified for the full pension introduced at the time, government data suggests. While more than one million people have begun claiming their pension over the past five years, fewer than 500,000 are receiving the maximum amount possible, which is £179.60 a week in the current year. 

That largely reflects the way the state pension now works. While it is significantly more generous – this year’s weekly pension for those who retired before 2016 is £137.60 a week – it is also harder to qualify for. 

To get the full amount, you will need to have made national insurance contributions for at least 35 years, up from 30 years under the previous system, when around two-thirds of people qualified for the maximum benefit.

The good news is that if you are off target to qualify for the maximum state pension, you may be able to do something about it. Your first step is to check your current national insurance record, via the government’s online state-pension tool. If it shows you’re likely to come up short, consider making voluntary national insurance contributions; you can usually pay these for the past six years.

At the current rate, a whole year of extra national insurance contributions will cost you around £880. At this year’s benefit rates, one year’s extra contributions would buy you around £267 of extra annual income, so you would be in the black after four years of receiving your pension.

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