Seven things you need to know about the new state pension

A728GG social security retirement pension book and money
A728GG social security retirement pension book and money

The state pension has changed. In what was hailed as the biggest ever shakeup to state pensions, from 6 April this year, the system of having a basic state pension plus an optional and variable top up was switched for a far simpler version - with one flat rate of £155.65 per week for everyone.

So far, so simple. However, as with everything in the world of pensions, if you're going to really understand what it means for you, you need to go past the simple headline to the slightly more complex truth.

There are seven things you need to know about the new state pension.

1. It's not a single flat rate for everyone
You have to have enough National Insurance contributions for the flat rate. If you have fewer than ten years of contributions then you won't get any state pension at all. If you have fewer than 35 years, you will get less than the full allowance. You can get a record of your contributions from HMRC.

2. You cannot just work longer to boost your NI contributions
Only the years up until your state pension age will count - even if you defer getting your pension.

3. Deferring will increase payments though
You can put off claiming your pension in return for higher payments. You'll need to defer for a minimum of nine weeks, and in return for each nine week period you will get another 1%. However, this is far less generous than the old bonus for deferring, so consider carefully if it's worth it to you.

4. If you have NI gaps you can make them up
You can pay voluntary National Insurance Contributions in order to bring you up to 10 years - or to the maximum of 35. You need to do this before you retire, and you need to make sure you are credited with your contributions for the years when you were caring for children, unemployed or sick.

5. It's not a single flat rate for those who have ever contracted out
If you have been in a contracted out final salary scheme, you will have paid lower NI contributions. If you contracted out and saved into a personal pension, your NI contributions will have gone into a private pension. The government will reflect this by reducing your flat rate pension.

6. There have been some less high profile rule changes
Now, for example, you need to claim your state pension: you won't get it automatically. You will get a letter three months before your state pension age letting you know how to claim. If you don't get a letter, you will need to apply online. In addition, new rules mean you cannot inherit your partner's state pension entitlement any more - except in very limited circumstances.

7. You need to check when you're actually entitled to it
The women's state pension age is rising from roughly 63 at the moment to 65 by 2018. Once it has equalised with men, the state pension age for men and women will rise together. It's worth checking when your state pension is likely to become payable.

State Pension Plan: The Winners and Losers
State Pension Plan: The Winners and Losers