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17 Dec 2021

Increase in state pension age to 68 could come early - will your retirement plans be affected?

Moving the date could see people born in the 1970s having to wait longer to retire
Two male pensioners chatting away

A new government review into the state pension age could see millions of people born in the 1970s have to push back their retirement plans.

The review, launched on Tuesday, will look at bringing forward plans for a state pension age of 68, by seven years.

However, some experts believe this review could go the other way and hit the brakes on rises to the state pension age.

Here, Which? explains why the state pension age is important to your retirement plans plus the data that could influence the decision to bring the change to it forward.

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Why is your state pension age important?

The state pension age is the age you are allowed to access your state pension, which might make up a large part of your income when you retire.

The state pension age is currently 66 for both men and women.

Two more increases are already set out in legislation, a gradual rise to 67 for those born on or after April 1960 between 2026 and 2028, and a gradual rise to 68 between 2044 and 2046 for those born on or after 1977.

Why is the state pension age being reviewed?

The Pensions Act 2014 requires the government to regularly review the state pension age.

The first review of state pension age was undertaken in 2017 and concluded that the next review should consider whether the increase to age 68 should be brought forward to 2037-38 before tabling any changes to legislation.

This second review, which kicked off this week, will consider whether the rules around the pensionable age are appropriate and must be published by May 2023.

What factors will be considered?

The government says due to a growing population and people on average living longer, it needs to make sure that decisions on how to manage its cost are robust, fair and transparent to taxpayers in the future.

It must also ensure that as the population becomes older, the state pension continues to provide the foundation for retirement planning and financial security.

The review will consider:

  • The latest life expectancy data
  • Provide a balanced assessment of costs on an ageing population and future state pension expenditure
  • Consider labour market changes and people's ability and opportunities to work over state pension age
  • Develop options for setting the legislative timetable for state pension age that is transparent and fair

Find out more:how do I qualify for the state pension?

Healthy life expectancy data could stop rises

Two independent reports have been commissioned -one from the Government Actuary's department to look at life expectancy projections.

The second is to be led by Baroness Neville-Rolfe, which will review what needs to be considered when setting the state pension age.

Experts believe that the data could halt the planned state pension age rises.

Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown said: 'With increases in life expectancy slowing and the long-term impact of Covid as yet unknown, this review comes at an interesting time.

'It will also consider other factors that feed into the debate on state pension age. This includes regional differences and should open the debate about healthy life expectancy - the ability to keep working - and how it varies hugely across the country.

'Someone might have a life expectancy of 80 but not all that time will be in good health and many people will find it impossible to work up to and beyond current state pension age.'

Morrisey added data from Public Health England showed a man in Kensington has a life expectancy at birth of 84.2 but a healthy life expectancy of 61.3. Meanwhile, a man in Blackpool has a life expectancy of 74 but a healthy life expectancy of 53.7.

'Moving the goalposts'

Critics have accused the government of 'moving the goalposts' with this review and said it will have a big impact on retirement planning.

Becky O'Connor, head of pensions and savings at Interactive Investor said: 'Many will have spent much of their working life expecting to retire at 65. They have been disappointed before and look set to be disappointed again. It's no wonder today's younger workers have little faith in the state pension being there for them at all when they stop work, with many thinking they'll end up working forever.

'Continually moving the goalposts back like this doesn't just provoke disillusionment, it has big implications for retirement planning.'

O'Conner added the age at which people might expect to experience health problems that would prevent them from working is 63 and this would leave people having to rely on a private pension or benefits.

The women's state pension age controversy

Changes to the state pension age have previously proven to be controversial.

Millions of women claim they were discriminated against when the government introduced changes to the state pension age from 60 to 65 and then 66 in line with men.

An ongoing campaign led by two groups: Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) and BackTo60 says women born in the 1950s were robbed of their pension.

In July this year, an influential Ombudsman condemned the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for not providing 'accurate, adequate and timely' information about the hike in women's state pension age.

How to plan for your retirement

It's never too early to start planning your retirement.

There are plenty of guides onpensions and retirement on the Which? website to help you get started.

For Which? members, there's one-to-one guidance from the Which? Money Helpline.

You can also access free guidance services such as Pension Wise.