Victoria, 50

Stay-at-home mum and business owner Victoria is hoping her decades of work will be enough to earn her a decent state pension. But on checking the rules, Victoria has found out that you don't automatically get the highest payout available.

Confidence level: 7 out of 10

"My background is that I started work straight from school at 16 and worked all the way through until I had children in my early 30s. Now I'm predominantly a stay at home mum, and I turn 50 this year so still quite a way off until I can draw my state pension in 2037!

"My husband and I have had our own business for a few years. And currently my National Insurance record shows that I have 30 years of full contributions but have gaps of three years where I did not contribute enough to claim the full state pension."

My pension planning question...

"Currently my National Insurance record shows that I have 30 years of full contributions but have gaps of 3 years where I did not contribute enough. I can top up these missing years at approx £800 per year but not sure if it’s worth doing this at this stage. I’ll need to contribute another 5 years before 5 April 2037 in order to claim the full pension so should I start now?"

Answer by Susie Bewell, Raymond James

Chartered Wealth Manager - Meet the experts

he following information should be treated as a generic guide and not advice.

Firstly, well done for thinking ahead! Having a plan for retirement starts by knowing where you stand – and the sooner we know this, the easier it is to make small changes that make a big difference.

More and more people are recognising that topping up your state pension can be a very effective way of using your money. For those who will not otherwise get a full state pension, the cost of voluntary National Insurance contributions (NICs) will often be recovered in full within three or four years of retirement, as the rate is subsidised by the government.

In October 2020 HMRC reported that in 2018/19 £119.3m was paid in voluntary ‘Class 3’ National Insurance Contributions. This compares with just £12.8m in 2016/17 – a ninefold increase in just two years. So the message is getting out!

However, it is important to check before topping up, as in some cases paying extra NICs will not always increase your pension.

In your case, you have 17 years before you receive your state pension at age 67. You may not plan to work until then, but if you do work for another 5 or more years you may fill in the extra years needed for the full 35 year contribution history to be built up. But if your plans change and there is a shortfall, then you can pay later to top up the gaps.

So based off what you’ve said, I would not recommend making any immediate changes, but as you do an annual review, check online at gov.uk/check-state-pension to see how you are making progress. Though please do seek out a financial specialist if you do want an in-depth look at your situation.

Found this answer useful?

Meet our Pension Planner experts to learn more about them and see how else they could help.