State pension UK: National Insurance rules explained – can the unemployed build records?

Martin Lewis provides advice on tracking down lost pensions

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State pension income is dependent on NI records, with a minimum of 10 years worth of contributions needed to receive anything in retirement. To receive the full amount, which is currently £175.20 per week, at least 35 years of contributions will be needed.

For NI contributions to be counted, they’ll need to be “qualifying” and there are different rules for what qualifies for those who are working and those who are not.

If a person cannot work, for example, due to illness or being unemployed, they may get NI credits.

These credits can protect state pension entitlement and they can be received if:

  • A person is claiming child benefit for a child under 12
  • A person gets jobseeker’s allowance or employment and support allowance
  • A person gets carer’s allowance

NI records are usually built up while a person is working, and a qualifying year will be attained if:

  • A person is employed and earns over £183 a week from one employer
  • A person is self-employed and is paying NI contributions

Workers may not pay NI if they earn less than £183 a week, although it may still be possible to get a qualifying year if they earn between £120 and £183 per week from one employer.

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Should a person not be working or getting NI credits, they may be able to pay voluntary NI contributions which could increase state pension amounts.

It’s also possible to have gaps in a NI record and still get the full new state pension.

State pension forecasts can be received which will tell people how much income they may get when reaching state pension age.

It will then be possible to apply for a NI statement from HMRC to check if a record has gaps.

To get a state pension forecast people will need to head to the Government’s website, where a free-to-use tool can break down how much state pension could be received, when it could be claimed and how it could be increased.

State pensions can only be claimed from a certain age, which is currently sitting at 66 for most people.

However, it will be increased to 67 between 2026 and 2028, with it then set to reach 68 by 2048.

It should be noted state pensions will not be paid out automatically even when a person reaches their state pension age, they’ll need to be claimed.

The Government details the quickest way to claim a state pension is by applying online.

This process can be started up to four months before a person reaches their state pension age.

It is also possible to apply for a state pension over the phone or through the post.

Initial payments will arrive within five weeks of reaching state pension age byt beyond this, they’ll come through once every four weeks.

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