Until I started working in the pensions industry, I had assumed (rather arrogantly it turns out) that I will be entitled to a full State Pension when I reach the grand old age of 60.

Of course, I now realise I can’t assume I will be entitled to anything at all!  A combination of the government increasing the State Pension Age (SPA), tinkering with legislation and my own need to juggle working with raising my family means I will only be able to receive my State Pension if:

  1. I have actually worked for more than ten years and made my National Insurance Contributions (NICs)
  2. Worked for 35 years and made my NICs to be entitled to the full State Pension
  3. Within current estimates, I make it to the age of 68, due to predicted increases in the SPA

Predicting the future

I was auto-enrolled into my company pension when I started working full-time and this has, at the very least, ensured I’m saving for my future.

I thought it would be a good idea to find out just exactly what I will be entitled to, so I recently tried the State Pension Calculator.  It’s a useful way of finding out if you are on track to receive the full State Pension when you reach retirement age (whatever that may turn out to be!), and it also provides you with a breakdown of your NICs during your working lifetime.

It was interesting to see that for me, a 47 year old single mum who has worked alongside bringing my children up, there were only two years out of 32 I hadn’t managed to make my full quota of NICs. This is partly due to NI credits continuing to be made even when you have your children as long as you are registered for Child Benefit and your youngest child is under 12. So as long as I continue working for the next five years I’ll be eligible to receive the full State Pension (£159.55 per week).  I’d like to say that knowing that gave me some sense of relief . . .

Affordability

Now I’m not planning on a luxury holiday when I retire, but even I can see that trying to manage on this amount is going to be challenging. Unfortunately, due to the reasons already stated, my other pension saving has also been rather sporadic over the years – it’s tough to think of your own future with the immediate financial needs of your family so painfully pressing.

For me, starting out late on the career ladder and with significantly less time to pay into my pension, the future looks frighteningly close and not particularly comfortable.  I was auto-enrolled into my company pension when I started working full-time and this has, at the very least, ensured I’m saving for my future. I’m benefitting from contributions from my employer, tax relief from the government and I now have a strong sense that I’m making a practical effort to avoid poverty in my later life.

Stay in, pay in and pay in some more

All doom and gloom aside, I know that my aim right now is to pay in, manage my pension savings and try to find some extra money to contribute when I can.  Increasing my contributions by just one percent every year, perhaps when I get my annual pay increase when I won’t notice it quite so much, could have a positive impact on my long-term prospects.

With Me2 you can try modelling the effect that paying in just one percent more will have on your predicted savings – you might be pleasantly surprised!