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The basic pension is lower than the income support threshold, so if they have no other income, state pensioners can top up with income support. This comes in the form of a means-tested Pension Credit which brings the weekly amount up to £130 for a single person and £198.45 for a couple.

In 1949 there were approx. 4 million pensioners in the UK. There are now 10.5 million and they live longer in retirement. This is expected to rise to 12.5 million by 2025 and to 14 million by 2050. While there are now 4.5 working people to every pensioner, by 2025 there will only be 3.5

Since Margaret Thatcher changed the rules in the 1980s, pensions go up with prices, not with earnings which outstrip prices. If pensions had risen in line with earnings, the basic state pension would now be around £130 a week – still not much but a whole load better than what a retired person now gets.

Home responsibilities protection is for people who look after a sick or disabled person for at least 35 hours a week, or receive child benefit for a child under 16 or still in full time education. Your local DSS office is the best place to ask about this initially.

If your earnings were less than the “lower earnings limit” (at the time of writing this is £4,940 a year or £95 a week), you may not be in line for a full pension. You might qualify for Home responsibilities protection. Or maybe you could consider making Class 3 Voluntary NI Contributions.

Don’t forget that if your income is really low and you have little in the way of savings, you might be better ignoring all NI top-ups and going for a means-tested Pension Credit benefit which can also include payment of your rent or mortgage interest.

To improve your State Pension prospects you can pay Class 3 Voluntary NI Contributions. Only those years with completely paid up NI contributions count towards your state pension. So if you had paid most but not all of a year’s NI contributions it seems a good idea to make up the shortfall.

While the DSS are the first people to ask, in the first instance, it is important to realise that because the system is so complex they may not get it right. In fact if you are retiring they may even miscalculate your entitlement (If this happens you can of course appeal but would need to know that they have made a mistake in the first place).

Yes. (Another great myth exploded). But usually the State pension is below the tax threshold. It depends on your personal allowance but basically the normal State Pension of around £4,950 pa, for a single person, is unlikely to be taxed if that is all the income you have.

They will be taxed together. Suppose your total state entitlement including the second pension is £6,000 a year and you have £4,000 from an occupational pension and £3,000 from a personal pension. You now have a total taxable income of £13,000. The first £9,500 or so is tax free so you end up paying 20% on the £3,500 remaining – about £14 a week.

Once you reach the state pension age, you don’t pay National Insurance anymore even if you carry on working. For someone on around £20,000, that’s a saving of nearly £40 a week. And you get free local public transport including a free bus pass (in England) with local trains and tubes for London residents.

Perhaps surprisingly, the list of “good countries” includes the former Yugoslavia, the European Union and the United States but not Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or Canada. Oh well. Suppose the blood given for King and country by the Aussies, Kiwis and co, on all those sad battlefields, has been forgotten about.

Formerly known as SERPS, S2P is a top up to your state pension to reflect your earnings over your working life. It is an addition to your State Pension.. It used to be calculated on 25% of your salary during its best years. But this level is gradually being lowered to 20%.

During the 18th century the poor relied on the Elizabethan “poor laws”. The parishes had to support the poor and sick but not the “work shy”. However the conditions of the notorious poorhouses and a growing social awareness, thanks to writers like Charles Dickens, meant that by the end of the 19th century, state intervention had become a vote winner.