Keeping Track of The State Pension Age for Women
In 2020 the state pension age for women increased to 66, and it’s set to rise even more over the next decade. Find out more about the increase, and ways you can prepare for any future changes – from tracing old pensions, to accessing free pension help and support.
In practical terms, the state pension age (SPA) marks the point at which you can begin claiming your state pension. For many, it also has emotional resonance, representing the start of a new life chapter where important lifestyle changes may happen for you. For example, you may be planning to retire or reduce your working hours when you reach your state pension age.
But the state pension age has changed over the last two decades – a change that’s particularly affected women.
How has the state pension age changed?
Not so long ago, the state pension age in the UK was 60 for women and 65 for men. The Pensions Act 1995 sought to bring women’s SPA in line with men’s by planning a gradual increase across ten years from 2010 to 2020.
By 2018, both men and women’s SPA was 65. But further changes meant that the SPA increased to 66 for both men and women in October 2020, and is expected to rise even more, to 67 between 2026 and 2028.
Your SPA will depend on when you were born. If you aren’t sure when you’ll be able to start claiming your state pension, you can check with the government’s calculator.
Problems caused by the rise in state pension age
The increase in the state pension age for women from 60 to 66 affected nearly 4 million women born in the 1950s, and caused many financial stress. They say the government didn’t properly inform them of the changes to their state pension age, writing to them too late or not at all, and leaving them either unaware or with little notice that they’d have to wait until the age of 66 to claim their state pension, and not 60, as originally expected and planned for.
The WASPI pension initiative
The organisation Women Against State Pension Inequality – or WASPI, as it’s better known – formed in 2015 to protest ‘the unfair way the changes to our SPA were implemented with inadequate or no notice,’ and to campaign for women affected by the pension delay to receive a ‘bridging pension’ to tide them over until they reach state pension age. In January 2016 WASPI’s petition was debated in parliament, having acquired 118,000 signatures, but has yet to effect real change for women affected by the SPA increase.
However, WASPI’s campaign has brought the issue of the women’s state pension delay and its consequences to public attention, placed it firmly on the government’s radar, and garnered much media interest along the way.
How to prepare for future state pension age changes
If you have to wait longer than expected to claim your state pension, depending on your financial situation, it could be an anxious time. But there are steps you can take in the interim, and help you can draw on.
Access other pensions
Do you have old workplace or personal pensions you’ve lost track of over the years? If so, as long as you remember which employer(s) provided them, you can use the government’s Pension Tracing Service to get the provider’s contact details. From there, you’ll be able to get in touch directly to find out if you have a pension, and if so, how much it’s worth.
If you do have other pensions, it might be helpful to know you can take 25% of your pot tax-free as a lump sum from the age of 55.
Look for jobs with age-diverse employers
If, as a result of the increased state pension age, you’ve decided to continue working – or if your situation means you now need to find a job – there are age-diverse employers out there who recognise and appreciate the skills and experience older employees can bring to the table. Rest Less, a lifestyle website established especially for people in their 50s and 60s that has evolved into a digital community, has a searchable database of jobs from such employers, plus plenty of career ideas and advice you might find useful.
Seek financial help and claim eligible benefits
If you’re dealing with money worries, it’s important to know you aren’t alone. There are organisations and charities out there – such as Pension Wise, The Pensions Advisory Service and Citizens Advice – who can lend a friendly ear and suggest next steps. They can also let you know if you’re eligible for any government benefits, such as Universal Credit or Job Seekers Allowance. If you’re worried about debt in particular, the debt charity StepChange offers free advice and support.
» MORE: State Pension Guide: What You Need To Know
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Hannah has been writing about money in one way or another since 2013. Formerly a copywriter for Virgin Money, she now covers all things personal finance for NerdWallet UK. Read more