I was born in 1954 and married at 17 years old. I had two children and went to work part time from 22 years old and paid the married woman’s stamp since then.
My husband was born in 1950 and paid full stamp, but was disabled after a brain haemorrhage burst under his brain. He then had two further operations to remove blood clots and was never able to work since.
As I worked part time, I carried on working. I am still working and don’t retire until May 2020. I don’t pay into a pension as I don’t earn much money, just about £11,500 if that. I have looked after my husband since the mid-1990s.
State pensions for married women: What were the old rules and how did they change in the big shake-up
What pension if any will I get in 2020? Also, if my husband dies before I reach my retirement date in 2020, will I get any pension at all?
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Steve Webb replies: As you know, the ‘married woman’s stamp’ was a system which used to allow married women to pay a lower rate of National Insurance Contributions.
The idea was that they would be depending on their husband in retirement and claiming a partial pension based on his National Insurance record. As a result they were allowed to pay less into the system.
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The ability to opt to pay this ‘reduced stamp’ was ended in 1978, but women who had already begun to pay the reduced rate were allowed to continue to do so unless they actively chose to stop or until there was a two-year gap in them making contributions.
When the new state pension was introduced, the idea of claiming a pension based on someone else’s contributions largely disappeared.
But this could have created a potential unfairness for women who had paid the married woman’s stamp.
If they had spent their working life expecting to claim a (partial) pension based on their husband’s record and then suddenly found they could no longer do so, they could have been left with no pension at all.
As a transitional concession, the government decided that any married woman who paid the reduced stamp at any point within 35 years of reaching pension age (so in your case this would be any time after 1985) would still be able to claim a partial pension.
On this basis I would expect that you should be able to claim a partial pension – probably around £75.50 per week in today’s money – if you are still a married woman at that point.
In the event that you were unfortunately to be a widow by that point you would receive a full ‘basic’ pension of £125.95 in today’s money.
There is however another possibility. If you have been a carer for your husband and receiving Carers Allowance since the mid 1990s, this provides automatic credits to your national insurance account for each year that you are a carer.
What is the ‘married woman’s stamp’?
A long run of carers credits could mean that you can claim a state pension based on your own record of contributions, and this might generate a larger pension than the partial pension you can get based on your husband’s record.
But this would not apply if you had simply been caring for him without claiming carers benefit.
The best way to find out where you stand is to use the ‘check your state pension’ service which will certainly give details of your own National Insurance record.
It probably will not have details of what you could get based on your husband’s contributions, but if this site shows that you have already built up more than £75.50 then this will confirm that you are going to be assessed on the basis of your own NI record.
If not, then you might want to phone the Future Pension Centre on 0800 731 0175 and explain your situation and get them to write to you to let you know what you can expect.
I should add that if the state pension is all that you have in retirement (and if you have limited savings) then you would very likely be entitled to claim a means-tested top up such as pension credit.
This would bring your weekly income up to around £163 and would also trigger entitlement to things like help with rent, council tax and energy bills.
HOW MUCH IS THE STATE PENSION?
The basic state pension is currently £125.95 a week. It is topped up by additional state pension entitlements – S2P and Serps – accrued during working years.
The two-tier state system has changed for people retiring since 6 April 2016, when it was replaced by a new ‘flat rate’ state pension. This is currently worth £164.35 a week.
People who have contracted out of S2P and Serps over the years and retire after April 2016 get less than the full new state pension.
But they can fill gaps in unpaid and or underpaid National Insurance in previous years, and build up more qualifying years if they have enough time between now and state pension age.
Workers needed to have 30 years of qualifying National Insurance contributions to get the old state pension, but they now need to have 35 years of contributions to get the new flat rate state pension.
But even if you paid in full for a whole 35 years, if you contracted out for some years on top of that it might still reduce what you get.
ASK STEVE WEBB A PENSION QUESTION
Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb is This Is Money’s Agony Uncle.
He is ready to answer your questions, whether you are still saving, in the process of stopping work, or juggling your finances in retirement.
Since leaving the Department of Work and Pensions after the May 2015 election, Steve has joined pension firm Royal London as director of policy.
If you would like to ask Steve a question about pensions, please email him at [email protected].
Steve will do his best to reply to your message in a forthcoming column, but he won’t be able to answer everyone or correspond privately with readers. Nothing in his replies constitutes regulated financial advice. Published questions are sometimes edited for brevity or other reasons.
Please include a daytime contact number with your message – this will be kept confidential and not used for marketing purposes.
If Steve is unable to answer your question, you can also contact The Pensions Advisory Service, a Government-backed organisation which gives free help to the public. TPAS can be found here and its number is 0300 123 1047.
Steve receives many questions about state pension forecasts and COPE – the Contracted Out Pension Equivalent. If you are writing to Steve on this topic, he responds to a typical reader question here. It includes links to Steve’s several earlier columns about state pension forecasts and contracting out, which might be helpful.
If you have a question about state pension top-ups, Steve has written a guide which you can find here.
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