People should be able to take state pension early if they want to, say experts

Calls for people to be able to take their state pension early if they wish were being made as the general age at which new retirees will qualify for payments reached 66 on Tuesday.

The state pension has been increasing for many years and as part of the changes men and women born between October 6 1954 and April 5 1960 will start receiving their pension on their 66th birthday.

Aegon said people should be able to take their state pension three years earlier, from the age of 63, if they wish to.

It said that in the tough economy caused by Covid-19, some workers nearing retirement may struggle to find new employment if they end up losing their job.

In return for taking their pension early, they could receive a lower weekly amount, to maintain financial fairness, it said.

Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon pointed out that the pension freedoms currently allow people to access their workplace pensions from the age of 55 if they want to.

He said: “The higher the state pension age is, the more difficult it will be for those in stressful or manual occupations to keep working until state pension age.

“On top of this, the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic may see an increasing number of those in their early 60s losing employment and struggling to find a new role.

“In these unprecedented times, we’d welcome the Government exploring allowing people to take their state pension from an earlier age, perhaps 63, at a reduced amount to reflect the fact it is starting earlier and will be paid for longer.

“People can already defer taking their state pension until later, receiving an uplift for doing so, and this would effectively mirror this facility at younger ages. Offering early access at a reduced level could be a big help to many thousands of individuals as a means of supplementing private or workplace pensions.”

The full new state pension is £175.20 per week, but the amount people receive depends on their national insurance (NI) record.

People generally need 35 qualifying years to get the full pension.

Ros Altmann
Ros Altmann

Ros Altmann, a former pensions minister, has also been calling for a more flexible state pension age range, arguing that the current system does not take account of the most disadvantaged people in society often having the poorest health and lower life expectancies.

Baroness Altmann has said: “Women have been particularly affected by the sharp rise in pension age but there are also many men who will face difficult times as they have to wait longer for their state pension to start.”

Under the system of gradually rolling the state pension age upwards, some people have already needed to wait until the age of 66, or close to it, to receive their state pension.

The state pension age will not stop at 66 and younger generations will face needing to wait until they are closer to 70 before they can draw a state retirement income.

Tom Selby, a senior analyst at AJ Bell, said previously: “State pension provision is only moving in one direction in response to rapidly rising life expectancy in recent decades.

“Since 2010 we have seen the state pension age equalised for men and women at 65, before increasing to 66 for all between 2018 and 2020.

“That is unlikely to be the end of the story, however. Plans are already in place to increase the state pension age to 67 by the end of this decade and then 68 by the end of the next decade.”