With the state pension making up an important element of income in retirement, knowing WHEN you’re going to start receiving your state pension is an important fact.  However, a series of changes to the state pension age have left many in the dark.

New research has found that 24% of 50 to 64 year olds don’t know their state pension age.  That’s equivalent to nearly 3 million people.  The research, carried out by YouGov on behalf of the charity Age UK, was published ahead of Thursday 6th December 2018, an important date for the state pension age.  This is the date when no-one, neither men nor women, will be able to start accessing their state pension before their 65th birthday.

The state pension age has been on the rise for women since 2010, equalising with the state pension age for men at age 65, before rising higher still for both sexes.  For women, the state pension age has risen rather quickly; it was age 60 in 2010, rising to age 65 in 2018.  This age rise has hit some groups of women quite hard, particularly those born in the 1950s, and left them with little time to adjust their retirement plans accordingly.

According to the research, nearly a fifth of those surveyed made the disappointing discovery that their state pension age was higher than they expected.  Amongst those who had previously said they didn’t know their state pension age, this rose to 52%.  Even among those who had professed to know their state pension age, nearly one in 10 discovered the age at which they will actually receive their state pension is higher than they thought.  Three in 10 of those surveyed as part of the research had never checked or couldn’t remember checking their state pension age.

Looking ahead, men and women will face an even longer wait to start getting their state pension. It’s currently on track to start at age 67 by 2028 for both men and women.  This age rise is not popular.  Almost three in five of those surveyed for Age UK felt very negative about the changes. More than a third expressed their disappointment, around a third said they felt angry about the change, and one in seven felt worried.  The state pension age is on the rise because people are, on average, living longer.  That said, many people who live in deprived areas and on low incomes cannot expect the same life expectancy improvements as those who live in affluent parts of the country or receive higher incomes.

Of those who said they do not expect to be working in the two years leading up to state pension age, 29% cited health reasons, 17% cited likely unemployment, and 5% cited caring responsibilities as the main reasons. Ill health was a particular concern for those surveyed in the ‘working class’ demographic, with almost half of this group citing ill health as a reason for not expecting to work in the years leading up to their state pension age.

As a result of the research, Age UK is warning that many people – typically manual workers, carers and those who are unemployed – are likely to experience real hardship as a result of the continued increase in state pension age, made worse still if they are expecting to receive their State Pension sooner than they actually will.

Age UK are calling on the government to offer much better support and more opportunities to stay in work until reaching state pension age.  They are also urging people to check their state pension age, which they can do online at www.ageuk.org.uk/state-pension-age.  Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, said:

“Clearly there is still much confusion about the age at which people can expect to receive their State Pension and our worry is that many who have few resources to fall back on are in for a nasty shock.

“At Age UK we think the most pressing and immediate concern is the hundreds of thousands of people in their fifties and sixties who are unable to carry on working today, and who are really struggling financially as a result.  We are thinking, for example, of lifelong manual workers crippled by arthritis and carers who have given up work to look after an ailing partner or parent, and who face the prospect of being totally broke as they wait to claim their State Pension.

“The Government needs to do much more to help people in this position now.  More support should be given to those who are badly affected by increases in SPA, like men and women earning low wages who are completely or mainly reliant on the State Pension to get by in retirement.  We urge the Government to allow early access to the State Pension for those who effectively have had no choice but to stop working before they reach their SPA.”

Anyone who is concerned about their retirement income or state pension age can call Age UK Advice free of charge on 0800 169 6565, visit www.ageuk.org.uk or contact their local Age UK for further information.

Another better option is to start planning ahead by working with a professional financial planning firm which can obtain your State Pension forecast on your behalf.