Major changes to the state pension age kick in next month (November), and a Lancashire solicitor is urging people to check their retirement plans to avoid nasty surprises in the future.

The reforms are necessary because Office for National Statistics research suggests the number of people over state pension age is expected to rocket by a third between 2017 and 2042 – up from 12.4 million in 2017 to 16.9 million in 2042.

Brian Ollerton, financial services manager at Lancashire-based WHN Solicitors, is advising people of all ages to establish when they will be able to start receiving their state pension.

Brian said: “The situation regarding the state pension age is fairly complicated and subject to further changes by the government. Irrespective of your age, it’s well worth reviewing official policy on a regular basis.”

From next month (November), the state pension age for both men and women will start to increase in stages, reaching 66 in October 2020. There will be another rise to 67 for people entitled to take their state pension between 2034 and 2036.

An extra increase to 68 is projected for people eligible to start drawing their state pension between 2044 and 2046. However, a recent government review suggests this timetable will be brought forward. If approved by Parliament, this would mean the state pension age gradually increasing to 68 between 2037 and 2039.

People born between 6 April 1970 and 5 April 1978, whose state pension age is currently 67, are scheduled to start receiving payments at 67 years and one month, rising to 68, depending on their date of birth. The state pension age for those born after 6 April 1978 will not change and remains at 68.

Women born before 5 April 1950 received their state pension at 60 in 2010. However, women born after 6 December 1953 have not been able to access the state pension until their 65th birthday. Women born between 5 April 1950 and 6 December 1953 have seen the age at which they receive their state pension increase gradually between their 60th and 65th birthdays. The current state pension age for men born before 6 April 1953 is 65.

Brian said: “The government’s review proposes a new timetable for the rise to 68, which ministers say is in line with continuing increases in life expectancy. The state pension age is regularly reviewed to make sure it is affordable and fair because people are living longer and spending a larger proportion of their adult life in retirement than in the past.

“However, this fluid situation does mean there is an element of uncertainty around when individuals of various ages will be eligible to start receiving their state pension.”

A useful calculator for people to work out their retirement age can be found at  https://www.gov.uk/state-pension-age

Brian explained: “When the state pension was introduced in 1948, a 65-year-old could expect to get 13.5 years of payments – around 23 per cent of their adult life. This has been rising ever since, and by 2017 a 65-year-old could expect to live for a further 22.8 years, or 33.6 per cent of their adult life.”

The state pension is currently £164.35 a week, assuming you have made a maximum 35 years of National Insurance contributions. This will increase in line with inflation each year. If you have between 10 and 35 qualifying years, you will get a proportion of the state pension.

Brian continued: “It is also working keeping in mind that you can carry on working past your state pension age for as long as you want. The ‘default retirement age’ – compulsory retirement at 65 – no longer exists. Also, you can ask your employer if you can work more flexibly, or part-time, although they have the right to say no.”

“Another key factor for many people’s retirement plans is a private or workplace pension. With the exception of ‘defined benefit’ schemes, you can take some or all of the cash from your pension pot, usually after you are 55, in return for a reduced annuity – or no annuity if you take the whole pot.”