1 in 4 people (24 per cent) aged between 50 and 64 years – nearly 3 million people – don’t know what their State Pension age (SPA) is, according to new research by YouGov for the charity Age UK.
Released ahead of Thursday 6 December, after which no one – neither men nor women – will be able to receive their State Pension on their 65th birthday, the findings reveal widespread confusion about SPA, even among those who are quite near it. This is despite recent high profile campaigning and media reports highlighting the enormous impact on some women of increases in female SPA since 2010.
Nearly a fifth of all those surveyed (18%) found their actual SPA is higher than expected after it was shown to them as part of the research. Amongst those who had previously said they didn’t know their SPA, this rocketed to 52%. Even among those who had professed to know their SPA, nearly 1 in 10 (9%) discovered the age at which they will actually receive their State Pension is higher than they thought. And worryingly, 3 in 10 of those surveyed had either never checked or couldn’t recall when they had checked their SPA.
The speed at which female SPA has risen – from 60 in 2010 to 65 in 2018 – has hit millions of women hard, leaving them with very little time to re-adjust their retirement plans. Many women have been left in hardship as they struggle to manage without the State Pension and, for some, the benefits they were counting on after a lifetime of working in low-paid or part-time jobs. Yet from tomorrow, millions of women will have to endure an even longer wait for their State Pension – this time joined by men for the first time – as the SPA continues on its course to reach 67 by 2028 for both men and women.
Almost 3 out of 5 (58%) of those surveyed for Age UK felt very negatively about the changes, with well over a third (37%) disappointed, a third (31%) angry and 1 in 7 (14%) worried.
While thankfully most people will live to 67 and beyond, there are many – particularly men in more deprived areas and those on low incomes – who are unlikely to make it to their SPA in good health. Of those who said they do not expect to be working in the 2 years leading up to SPA, 29% cited health reasons, 17% cited likely unemployment, and 5% cited caring responsibilities as the main reasons.
Among those surveyed in the C2DE ‘working class’ demographic, ill health was a particular concern, with nearly half (47%) of this group citing this as a reason why they didn’t expect to be working up to their SPA. This is supported by ONS data showing that in the most deprived 10% of areas of England, healthy life expectancy at birth is just 51.9 years for men and 51.8 years for women – nearly 15 years below the current SPA.
Age UK is warning that many people – typically manual workers, carers and those who are unemployed – are likely to experience real hardship as a result of the continued increase in SPA, made worse still if they are expecting to receive their State Pension sooner than they actually will. In an effort to mitigate this, Age UK is calling on the government to offer much better support and many more opportunities so that people are able to stay in a job that works for them until they reach their SPA. The Charity is also urging people to check their SPA at www.ageuk.org.uk/state-pension-age.
However Age UK is also urging the government to recognise that working up to SPA is just not possible for everyone. For those who really cannot continue working until their SPA, Age UK is urging the government to allow early access to the State Pension to help those who are most in need. Long-term carers and those with health problems who have little prospect of being able to work again should be able to access their State Pension early, up to 3 years before people in this position reach SPA.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, says:
“Clearly there is still much confusion about the age at which people can expect to receive their State Pension and our worry is that many who have few resources to fall back on are in for a nasty shock.
“At Age UK we think the most pressing and immediate concern is the hundreds of thousands of people in their 50s and 60s who are unable to carry on working today, and who are really struggling financially as a result. We are thinking, for example, of lifelong manual workers crippled by arthritis and carers who have given up work to look after an ailing partner or parent, and who face the prospect of being totally broke as they wait to claim their State Pension.
“The government needs to do much more to help people in this position now. More support should be given to those who are badly affected by increases in SPA, like men and women earning low wages who are completely or mainly reliant on the State Pension to get by in retirement. We urge the government to allow early access to the State Pension for those who effectively have had no choice but to stop working before they reach their SPA.”