/ Money

Do you understand your state pension forecast?

Pension pot savings

Following a Which? investigation into state pension forecasts it’s clear to us that the Department for Work and Pensions still has improvements to make.

I’m a fair way off qualifying for the state pension, but I was curious to see an estimate.

I’d say that the information in the paper and online statements I received was broadly useful. However, there were some key omissions.

State pension forecast

First, although they cover your National Insurance (NI) record to some degree, what this means and what you can do to plug any gaps is largely absent.

Secondly, your contracting-out record must be used to work out your state pension and ‘Contracted Out Pension Equivalent’ (COPE) estimates. (Before 2012, you could contract-out, or choose not to make contributions to a second, top-up pension, provided by the government.)

COPE is an estimated figure used to give you a rough idea of what you’re likely to get from other pensions, if you’ve opted out of the additional state pension. But the workings aren’t shared, and there’s no way of checking the DWP’s (Department for Work and Pensions) sums.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) says that if you want to know whether you were contracted out, you should contact your pension scheme provider or employer. But this could take a great deal of time and effort, particularly if you’ve had several employers and some no longer exist.

Overall, this system isn’t all that clear and the confusion could lead people to question the accuracy of DWP’s calculations.

We think people need detailed contracting-out information to help them understand their state pension entitlement.The DWP should include this information on both your paper and online statements – and soon.

Working out your state pension

In fact, we think there’s still much more that could be done to improve pension forecasts.

In a separate piece of research we carried out earlier this year, we found that over a third of people approaching retirement age find it difficult to keep track of their pension pots. So we were pleased to see the Treasury back our call for a ‘Pensions Dashboard’ to be delivered by the industry by 2019, this will house all the information necessary to help savers make informed decisions about their retirement choices.

If you want to find out what your state pension forecast is there are a number of ways you can do so. HMRC provides an online service, it takes about 10 minutes and you’ll need to confirm your identity and provide your NI number.

Or if you’re over state pension age or reach it in less than 30 days, you can get a paper statement from the Pension Service. And if you’re retirement date is further off then you can contact the Future Pension Centre.

Have you seen your state pension forecast? Did you find your forecast confusing at all?

This investigation originally appeared in the September 2016 edition of Which? Money.

Dawn says:
28 August 2016

Still waiting! Use a MAC so had to load another browser just to log in to Government Gateway and ended up phoning up anyway as site still didn’t work. Have been promised a breakdown in due course but because I am a female born in 1961 they were unable to give me an idea of what Government Pension I would get at the time. That was a year ago!!
Really need to know if it’s possible/worthwhile adding to my contributions to make up a full pension as have over 30 years but less than 35. Feel totally let down and confused.


Yes Dawn you can make up the difference in the number of years you need /or months to qualify for a full pension by requesting your National Insurance Record . It might cost some money but I think it will be worth it , but only you can tell once you see your record.


I think paying back years is only limited to two, or it was when I enquired the other year. Do not know/have not heard anywhere if the government is going to allow unlimited payment of back years. Would be good to allow up to 10 I think.

Gina Iles says:
28 August 2016

I am 62, and went online to see what my state pension would be. It confirmed I have paid 45 years of full contributions, and am on target to eventually receive the full state pension.. and yet the forecast stipulated that I would only get the full state pension if I worked a further 2 years… if I don’t work 2 more years my pension will be reduced by a total of £150 a year, when I eventually receive it at the age of 66. WHY?? I left a comment asking for an explanation, since I had surpassed the stipulated 30 years qualifying contributions by an additional 15 years already. I received no reply.

Ms G. I.
(One of the fed-up 1954’s women whose retirement age rose from 60 to 63, then to 66 (all at the end of a lifetime of contributing, having believed that I would be able to retire at 60). CAN YOU IMAGINE paying into a private pension scheme for 45 years, the terms at the outset being that the pension scheme would pay out when you reached 60, to then have the payout date deferred TWICE by a total of 6 YEARS?? It wouldn’t be allowed, would it?


Gina -the government changed the rules by bringing out new legislation ,and you know the government –strictly by the book and the law as it stands now. You didnt think it would be made in favour of the public , only the government .


Gina – The alteration to the pensionable age has been in the melting pt for a long time but the previous two government didn’t exactly publicise it. Adjusting it again was another unfortunate, and somewhat shame-faced, decision but necessary to harmonise the men’s and women’s pensions after the setting-back of the men’s starting date. If only they had dealt with the equality issue before they started tinkering with the pensionable age problem. The only consolation is that this is all based on the premise that, on average, we shall all be living longer than when the 60/65 pension ages were introduced so will draw our pensions for longer even with a later start.

jane burton says:
28 August 2016

I would like to know why you cannot fill in the gaps after 6yrs?


As I notice there are several comments on back paying NI stamps to get a full pension the rate’s are as follows for a woman born after 5-4-1953 = Class 2 – gaps between 6-4-2006 and 5-4-2011=£2.65 a week so that should be easy to calculate but certainly not easy to pay if we are talking years without paying .Those who were classified as ill -long term had the stamps paid for by the government after working a set number of years. The rates for 2016 to 2017 are=£2.80 a week for Class 2 . 6 years is usually the limit for contributions to be paid back however there are extended time limits for some tax years and special rules if you reach State Pension age on or before 5-4-2015- HMRC guide on this is -when and how to pay voluntary NI contributions –go to — gov.uk/voluntary-national-insurance-contributions/deadlines


The difficulty with the state pension is on several levels. Unlike a private pension, you don’t pay into it directly and build up a pot of money. The pension is paid from the current NI and t