Personal Pension  

Widespread confusion about flat rate state pension: Saga

Widespread confusion about flat rate state pension: Saga

There is widespread confusion over government plans to introduce a new flat rate state pension in April 2016, according to research by Saga.

A Populus poll amongst more than 10,000 UK adults aged over 50 has shown that a third believed the new system would be more generous, a third thought it would be less generous and the remainder had no idea.

Only 16 per cent of people in their fifties believed that they would go on to receive the new pension, while a third thought they would not.

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Back at the start of 2013, the government announced a flat state pension of around £144 a week for anyone with a full national insurance record from after 2017.

This will eventually replace basic state pension and all additional state pensions with one simple payment. The age at which the pension will be paid will rise in future, to age 66 in 2020 and age 67 by 2028, then further thereafter in line with life expectancy.

At the time, Saga Group director general Ros Altmann said the self employed and future pensioners on modest incomes with private savings would be winners, but it would not benefit current pensioners.

Now pensions minister, Ms Altmann promised to take forward work bringing in the new state pension, which will be set above the basic means test, currently at £148.35.

For the lower paid, the new flat rate pension is more generous, but less so for higher earners.

Despite this, public perception appears misguided in the sense that just 28 per cent of those in socio-economic group DE (semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers, casual labourers and pensioners) reckon the new pension will be more generous, compared with 36 per cent of those in socio-economic groups AB (managerial, administrative, professional).

Furthermore, only 7 per cent of people in their fifties said they were sure they knew about how to make extra national insurance top up payments to secure a better state pension.

Saga has called for the government to write to all those approaching retirement with individual pension predictions, along with a proper explanation of the new system, drawing attention to arrangements that allow people to make top up payments so they can qualify for a better pension.

Paul Green, head of communication for Saga said the research shows great confusion about changes to the state pension.

“Whilst there are a minority of people who are savvy who know how to make the most of what is on offer, it should not just be for savvy few to benefit. The government needs to do much more to raise awareness of the ways that people can boost their state pension.”

According to Partnership research at the start of this year, just 12 per cent of over-45s and around 13 per cent of 66-77 year-olds said they would be able to survive on the new flat-rate state pension, which equates to just under £8,000 a year.

ruth.gillbe@ft.com