As the government unveils its latest Pensions Bill, including plans to increase state pension age in line with rising life expectancy in future years, hundreds of thousands of women, aged between 58 and 60 are completely confused about what is happening to their state pensions.
I have been inundated with emails from worried older women who want to know when they will reach state pension age, how much pension they will be paid and why the government is not giving them adequate information to help them prepare themselves.
They have received confusing information from the Department for Work and Pensions and just want to know how old they will be when they start to receive their state pension. Unfortunately, the way the changes have been designed, it is virtually impossible to give them a straight answer.
The women also want to know how much they might receive but this is also still unclear. This impacts women far more than men, because the state pension rules are changing much more for older women than for men of the same age.
Government fails to understand impact on people's lives: The chancellor indicated yesterday that he was delighted with these changes because they saved so much money. This does suggest that the government is insensitive to the damage done to many older women's lives by its policies.
Older women singled out for harsh treatment: Until recently, many of these women were expecting to receive their state pension at age 60, since they were unaware of the changes made in 1995. The coalition agreement did promise that no changes would be made to women's state pension age before 2020. Indeed, for public sector pensions, the government insisted that it would not be fair to change the pension age for anyone within ten year's of their expected pension date. However, the coalition has decided that different rules will apply for this particular group of women. These women are now having to cope with the news that their state pension will start much later, but are also confused about when they will actually receive it. Even those who were aware of the previous changes and planned their finances around their expected pension date, have had the second increase in pension age imposed on them by the coalition and, if they are already retired either due to ill health or to care for others, they face significant financial strain. The government has not acknowledged their plight.
These women feel they do not matter: The coalition seems so far oblivious to the actual problems faced by these women, who feel as if they simply do not matter to policymakers.
State pension reforms are needed, but should be handled fairly: Of course it is true that the state pension age needs to rise, and it is also true that the state pension needs radical reform, but the manner in which the changes are being carried out seems to have conspired to cause concern and confusion.
Confusion as women age 58-60 reach pension age at 62, 63, 64, 65 or 66: Just look at the following tables and you will see some of the problems. It is not possible to give women a clear message about what is happening to them. The mechanics of the pension age changes are so unwieldy that whether they tell you their age now, or the year they were born, women now aged 58, 59 or 60 will qualify for their state pension at age 62, 63, 64, 65 or 66 - and their exact date of birth will determine which age relates to each woman.
Men have had far less change: The major problems only affect women. Men have had much less change - and more notice so they have more time to prepare themselves. Any man aged over 58 has seen no change in his age 65 state pension age, while women of the same age face sharp and confusing rises. The following table is a very high level summary of state pension ages:
Age now Women's state pension age Men's state pension age
60 62 or 63 65
59 63, 64 or 65 65
58 65 or 66 65 or 66
Government should have tried to minimise confusion: It might have been hoped that, when making the changes to state pension , thegGovernment would have tried to minimise the confusion and help give those affected the fairest chance to get to grips with the new rules. Sadly, this has simply not happened. Policy changes seem to be decided without sufficient careful thought for the actual people whose lives are being affected and who have to engage with this system.
Biggest problem for those born 1953 or 1954: Anyone born in 1953 or 1954 will now be aged 58, 59 or 60 and needs to check their state pension age very carefully. The best way to do this is to go onto the Government website and use the DWPs state pension age calculator. Enter your date of birth, and it will then give you your actual state pension date.
Many older women not online, need proper information: Of course, many older women are not able to use the internet, so they really need to have reliable information.
I have tried to explain what is happening to their state pension ages for women in the next few years, and wanted to draw up a reasonably simple table. Unfortunately, because of the complexity of the way the new state pension ages have been designed, this is really difficult. The following tables are a guide for those now aged 58, 59 or 60, who were born in 1953 or 1954. They are an attempt to give women the information they are asking for, to help them understand the planned changes:
Women aged 60
Women born on or before 5 April 1953 will be 62 when they become entitled to their state pension
Women born after 6 April 1953 will be 63 when they become entitled to their state pension
Women aged 59
Women born before 5 August 1953 will be 63 when they become entitled to their state pension
Women born on 6th July 1953, or between 6th August and 5 December 1953, will be 64 when they become entitled to their state pension
Women born on 6 November or after 6 December 1953 will be 65 when they become entitled to their state pension
Women aged 58
Women born between 6 May and 6 Sep 1953 will be 65 when they become entitled to their state pension
Women born on 6 Sep or after 5 Oct 1954 will be 66 when they become entitled to their state pension
Women born in 1953
Birthday State Pension Age
1 Jan - 5 Mar 62
6 Mar 63
7 Mar - 5 April 62
6 April - 5 July 63
6 July 64
7 July - 5 Aug 63
6 Aug - 5 Nov 64
6 Nov 65
7 Nov - 5 Dec 64
6 Dec - 31 Dec 65
Women born in 1954
Birthday State Pension Age
1 Jan - 5 Sep 65
6 Sep 66
7 Sep - 5 Oct 65
6 Oct - 31 Dec 66
Need an urgent information campaign to make sure women know: How can the government seriously expect women to cope with these kinds of changes to their state pension being imposed at such a pace and in such a confusing manner? A proper campaign to explain what is happening is required.
Tell people about the future state pension age changes too: And it is also important for people to be told now about the changes to state pension age that are already planned for the future. Many are still unaware of what is happening. The new rules are less confusing than the more imminent changes, but it is important that people know what their state pension age is likely to be.
What's happening to state pension ages?
Anyone who is now aged between 53 and 57 will have a state pension age of 66.
Anyone who is age 52 now, will reach state pension age at either 66 or 67.
Anyone younger than age 51 (but at least 31) will reach state pension age at 67. However, the government has released details in its Pensions Bill of future changes to state pension age being linked to rising life expectancy. In future, a commission will be established to advise on how fast pension age should rise in future, after 2026. Therefore, it will be important for people to keep track of what is happening to pension ages when making long-term plans for later life finances.
Ros Altmann is a pensions expert