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, the Waspi women seeking compensation following the rise, and how to prepare for any future state pension age changes.

Hannah Harper, Tim Leonard Last updated on 16 September 2021.
Keeping Track of the State Pension Age for Women

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 past two decades – a change that has particularly affected women.

What is the retirement age for women?

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 the pension age for women in line with men’s by planning a gradual increase across 10 years from 2010 to 2020.

By 2018, the state retirement age for men and women was 65. But further state pension age changes meant that this increased to 66 for both men and women in October 2020 and is expected to rise again, to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

How to check your state pension age

Your state pension age will depend on when you were born. If you are unsure when you can start claiming your state pension, you can check your state pension age using the government state pension calculator.

» MORE: How much state pension will I get?

Problems caused by the rise in state pension age

The increase in the state pension age for women from 60 to 66 affected nearly four million women born in the 1950s, and caused many financial stress. Those affected say the government failed to properly inform them of the changes to their state pension age, writing to them too late, if at all.

This left them either unaware or with little notice that they would have to wait until the age of 66 to claim their state pension, and not 60, as originally expected and planned for.

The WASPI women initiative

The organisation Women Against State Pension Inequality – or WASPI, as it’s better known – was formed in 2015 to protest against “the unfair way the changes to our SPA were implemented with inadequate or no notice”.

Many WASPI women feel they have missed out on thousands of pounds in state pension payments and have had to work for more years than they had anticipated because of a lack of warning over the change. Because of this, WASPI campaigns for women affected by the pension delay to receive a ‘bridging pension’ to tide them over until they reach state pension age, and for those who have already reached their state pension to be compensated.

In February 2016, WASPI’s petition was debated in parliament, having acquired 193,000 signatures over six months, but it has yet to achieve real change for those affected by the rise in the state pension age for women.

What is the latest WASPI news?

In July 2021, a report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman said there had been “failings” in how the government had communicated the changes in the state pension age for women. The report added that the ombudsman would now “consider the impact these failings had and make recommendations to put things right for any associated injustice”.

In response, WASPI said the findings vindicated its campaign, and reiterated its stance for the government to compensate those affected.

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 workplace or personal pensions you have lost track of over the years? If so, you should always put in the effort to find old or lost pensions and make the most of all the pension provision you’ve ever built up.

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.

» MORE: Your options for cashing in your pension

Look for jobs with age-diverse employers

If, as a result of the increased state pension age, you have 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.

Seek financial help and claim eligible benefits

If you’re dealing with money worries, it’s important to know you are not alone. There are organisations – such as Pension Wise and Citizens Advice – which can lend a friendly ear and suggest next steps.

They can also let you know if you are eligible for any government benefits, such as Universal Credit or Job Seekers Allowance. If you’re worried about debt in particular, there are many debt charities that can offer free advice and support.

If you want a professional to take a more detailed look at your retirement options, seeking formal pension advice is always a good idea.

» MORE: All you need to know about pension advice

Image source: Getty Images

About the authors:

Hannah has been writing about money since 2013. Formerly a copywriter for Virgin Money, covering credit cards, mortgages, pensions, and more, she now writes on personal finance for NerdWallet UK. Read more

Tim draws on 20 years’ experience at Moneyfacts, Virgin Money and Future to pen articles that always put consumers’ interests first. He has particular expertise in mortgages, pensions and savings. Read more

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