Women and the state pension age gap

First published 03 December 2019 • Updated 03 January 2020

Changes to the women’s state pension age (SPA) are triggering protests and petitions – but if you’re among those left in a precarious position, what can you do about it? Here we take a look at the problem and search for an answer. Article by Nick Green.

Women's state pension inequality

A lot of women are angry – and with good reason. A generation near retirement is facing the reality that they won’t receive their state pension as soon as they expected (and this pension may also be lower than they hoped). The campaign by WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) successfully forced a debate in Parliament, but so far the government has made no concessions. As a result, many thousands will struggled to balance their finances in retirement.

Why are women the most affected by state pension age rises?

Historically, women had a state pension age (SPA) of 60, while that of men was 65. The government set about equalising this in 1995, with a new law stating that women’s SPA would rise gradually to 65 between 2010 and 2020. However, in 2011 this changed again, so that by 2020 the SPA for both men and women will rise to 66. As a result, thousands of women who already had to wait for their state pension will now have to wait even longer than they thought – and may not have any arrangements in place for doing so.

But I didn’t even know I had to wait for my state pension!

They say old habits die hard. Well, so does old information. Although the law changing women’s SPA was made way back in the 90s, the change has only just begun to bite – and many people who would be affected simply didn’t have it on their radar. The government says it communicated the changes, but that doesn’t mean everyone understood. One of the most popular sources of financial information is friends and family, which sadly is a rich source of misinformation and outdated facts. By relying on what is effectively hearsay, many individuals have carried on believing that they’d receive their state pension from 60 onwards – when they might have to wait up to six years longer.

The final straw: a different state pension

With unfortunate timing, the state pension itself changed in 2016 to a flat-rate system. This left some better off, but others are finding their retirement income is reduced. For example, women can no longer rely on their husband’s National Insurance record when claiming their pension, and the NI requirements for a full pension have risen from 30 to 35 years’ contributions.

What can I do if I’m affected by state pension inequality?

This depends very much on your personal situation, how close you are to retirement, and whether you have any personal or workplace pensions to help tide you over the gap. If these arrangements don’t look adequate, you may still be able to take positive action. Professional financial advice can significantly boost your retirement income, and although the benefits are greatest if you act 10 to 15 years in advance, advice can also make a big difference even if taken at the point of retirement itself. At the very least, you’ll ensure that you have all the facts before you at last, from your state pension age to your likely income levels and the full range of options available to you.

Are you in a position to benefit from advice? The quickest way to find out is to contact a financial adviser for a free initial meeting.

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About the author
Nick Green
Nick Green
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.