The cost of changing women's state pension age: have women born in the 1950s been short-changed?

Published by Stephen Little on 20 February 2019.
Last updated on 20 February 2019

Have women born in the 1950s been short-changed?

In 1995, the government announced plans to increase women’s state pension age from 60 to 65 in line with men’s. As a result, many women in their early 60s now are facing financial hardship. We hear from the campaigners seeking redress

Have you been affected by the state pension age changes for women? We'd like to hear your story. Please email

Valda Marks, 64, was devastated when she discovered the state pension age had risen.

Just before her 60th birthday, she asked for a state pension forecast but, to her horror, found out she would have to wait another five years before she could claim.

“I felt absolutely robbed when I found out about the age change. I was looking forward to a comfortable retirement, but when you find out you are not getting a pension it can be quite difficult,” Valda says.

Valda, who lives with her husband in Suffolk, says the decision to raise the state pension age has cost her £44,000 and that, as a result, they have had to sell their home and rent.

“Our house is now our pension fund. We could have stayed but we would have had very little income. Without selling it, we would have found it more difficult but we should not have had to do it.”

After leaving school, Valda started working in the unemployment benefit office and then became a self-employed bookkeeper.

“I felt robbed when I found out about the age change”

She adds: “After I turned 60, I had to carry on working because of the pension changes but, last year, I had to go down to two days a week for health reasons. I work part-time as a bookkeeper, but this will be ending soon and I will have to look for a new job, which will be a worry.”

Like millions of women in their early 60s, Valda has had her dreams of a relaxing retirement crushed by the government.

Having experienced a lifetime of inequality, women entering retirement are finding they are even getting a raw deal when it comes to pensions. Changes to the state pension have left millions of women born in the 1950s poorer, with many now having to wait up to a further six years before they can claim.

Some, who have worked for decades and were expecting to retire have found they are now years away from receiving a state pension.

Many of these women are also unable to work because of poor health. Some are having to claim universal credit and have been forced to use food banks, while others, like Valda, have even had to sell their homes.

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Valda Marks (above) says the decision to raise the state pension age has cost her £44,000 – and her home

Changes to state pension age

The Pensions Act 1995 increased the state pension age for women, bringing the qualifying age in line with men by 2020.

The government then decided to accelerate its plan to increase the state pension age in 2011, so that men and women were on an equal footing by 2018. Women who thought they would receive a state pension at 60 suddenly found out they would not get it until they were 66.

The state pension age for women was raised last November to 65 – the same as men – for the first time.

It has been steadily rising from 60 since 2011 and in 2020 the age for both sexes will rise to 66.

This means that 3.8 million women born in the 1950s (on or after 6 April 1951) who thought they would be able to retire at 60 have had to wait another five or six years.

However, the increase in the state pension age has drawn widespread criticism.

Campaign groups such as BackTo60 and Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) argue that many women born in the 1950s were not warned of the changes and have suffered financial hardship as a result.

While the government insists it did enough to notify affected women of the changes, many disagree.

Debbie de Spon, a spokesperson for Waspi, says: “Women who have worked hard all their lives and thought they would be retiring at 60 are suddenly finding out they can’t work and are having to live off the money they saved for retirement.”

Ms de Spon says that some women who stop work can struggle to return to the workplace.

She says: “Many women often give up work to look after elderly parents or sick partners and then find they have to return to work to finance themselves. Entry back into work for women in their late 50s and early 60s is not easy. Despite legislation, older women still face discrimination in the workplace.”

Fighting back

While the increase in women’s state pension age has been debated in parliament on a number of occasions, the government has refused to budge.

Last year, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd said the government would make “no further changes to the law on this issue”.

However, women hit by the changes to the state pension age are refusing to be silent on the issue and are fighting back.

Waspi was set up in 2015 to campaign for compensation for women affected by the state pension age change.

Since its launch, thousands of women have taken part in rallies across the country and last year they marched at Westminster.

While Waspi agrees with equalisation of the state pension age with men, it is unhappy with the way it has been implemented.

The group is calling for a bridging pension to help women born in the 1950s, with compensation for those women who have reached state pension age and lost out.

Ms de Spon says: “Equalising the state pension age does not give women born in the 1950s equality. The government needs to do more. There are women claiming benefits each week when they thought they were going to be on the state pension. There needs to be some kind of compensation for all women who were not given adequate notice and time to make new arrangements.”

“Women who have worked hard all their lives and thought they would retire at 60 are suddenly finding they have to live off their retirement savings”

The decision to raise the state pension is now set to be fought in the High Court.

BackTo60, which claims to have 738,000 supporters, has won the right to judicial review to determine whether recent increases to women’s state pension age were lawful.

This case will be heard this summer, and the campaign group is hoping the government will reverse its decision.

The group is calling for the state pension age to be kept at 60 for women born in the 1950s, but the government has ruled out this idea as it would cost more than £70 billion.

Patrick Connolly, a chartered financial planner at Chase de Vere, says: “Based on everything the government has said so far, it seems unlikely that it will revise its plans for the state pension age, although it would be good to see the government making some steps to help those people who need it most.”

Valda is equally pessimistic.

She says: “I would like to see my pension backdated, but it is not going to happen. The government can’t afford to do it for all of us as the money isn’t there.

“I wouldn’t have minded if it had phased in fairly, but I had no notice whatsoever. The government made a mistake and we should be compensated.”

Have you been affected by the state pension age changes for women? We'd like to hear your story. Please email

Members of Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) protest outside parliament

Why is there a pension gender gap?

Millions of women experience a gender pension gap and face poverty in retirement because of low pay and taking career breaks to raise children.

A recent report from Fidelity International suggests a 25- to 34-year-old woman’s pension would be worth £126,784 at the state pension age of 68, compared to £142,836 for men – a gender pension gap of over 10%.

One of the main reasons why women face a pension shortfall is that men earn, on average, more than women during their careers, so they contribute more to their pension.

To qualify for the full state pension you need a total of 35 qualifying years of national insurance contributions or credits (NICs).

However, as women take time out from work to raise children or become carers, they are more likely to have gaps in their NICs. Taking time out means women have lower lifetime earnings and end up with smaller workplace pensions.

Women who work part-time are also being penalised. If they earn below £6,032, they will not receive NICs for their state pension.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) estimates that as many as three million part-time women workers are excluded from workplace pensions because they do not meet the minimum earning criteria.

Employers must enrol staff earning above £10,000 into a pension as part of auto-enrolment rules. However, as many women work part-time and do not earn this much, they don’t qualify for automatic pension contributions.

Divorced women can also miss out on pension money. During a divorce, pension assets often get left out of settlements, leaving women worse off in later life.

Mr Connolly says the best approach to retirement is to start saving early.

“While part-time workers may not earn enough for auto-enrolment, that does not mean they can’t have a pension. Their employer can still pay into a pension for them.

“Maternity rules have also improved over time. so women who have children can still pay in, although you need the finances to do this.”

Mr Connolly adds: “While women are still getting short-changed in many cases, we do now have a culture where many doing the same careers as men and are getting better opportunities, so over time you would expect the gap to close.”


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Unfortunately even if women

Unfortunately even if women were notified I bet it wasn't when they were in the 30s and they maybe had a better chance of making alternative arrangements.

They were in their 30’s when

They were in their 30’s when notified. It was 1995.

So all males should be

So all males should be allowed to claim 5 years pension payment because they could not claim pension until 65 when females got it at 60, it's just equality. My younger sister and my ex wife even younger both born in early 50's had to wait longer for their state pensions but we were all aware it was happening and accepted it. Maybe every time a benefit changes government should have to give 10 years notice to satisfy females, good idea so no increase in anything for 10 years, better than austerity for the country. Things change so learn to accept it because you were too slow preparing for your retirement and ignored the pension changes forover 20 years.

I am male and over 70 so the

I am male and over 70 so the new pension changes didn't effect me, but I used to work with many female colleagues in the NHS who were effected. If you read the majority of advice regarding pensions there are two main messages 1) start building up your pension pot early and 2) Find out what your pension will provide early on.

What the government did is change the rules at a very late stage and therefore there was very little that anyone could do to mitigate the changes, in my opinion there should have been a much more gradual introduction.

I was disgusted to find out that the governments way to deal with pensions was to take all the contributions they receive as income and just pay out what they needed each Year. I would have thought that it was pretty obvious that when the post war population boom hit pension age this approach just wouldn't work. They should have realised this in the 50's and 60's.

Perhaps you should have spent

Perhaps you should have spent the money on a better education - look up the difference between "affected" and "effected".

Davina I think you are very

Davina I think you are very rude to Mallin not everyone whether educated or not spell correctly especially if they suffer with dyslexia it isn't about education ...shame on you

I am a 62 year old feeling

I am a 62 year old feeling very sore regarding no government pension until i reach 66.I have worked for over 40 years.I would love to have some money to do nice things with my family but decisions beyond out control makes us struggling.

I was born in 1955.i didn't

I was born in 1955.i didn't get any letter from DWP telling me about the changes.i found out on FACEBOOK. Now I'll be 64 this year.i think yer not long really. Then this horrible government has now said I can't get my pension untill my husband gets his.My husband is 13 years younger than I'll be about 82!!!!! And with my bad health I will probably be that's another one the government hasn't got to worry about.
I am so upset about in order to get a pension when I'm 66 I have to divorce my bloody chance.
The sooner these evil people are out of parliament the better.
Please can we have a general election.but I suspect they will get voted back in.
There must be more 50s women who are in the same situation.
I'm tired I'm really tired.

It's not your pension you can

It's not your pension you can't get until your husband reaches SPA, it's just that you can't claim pension credit, you'll still get your SP, at state pension age!

You misunderstand. You will

You misunderstand. You will be entitled to your SP once you reach your SPA. This is unconditional.

What you won’the entitled for until your husband also reaches his SPA is any Pension Credit. This is a means-tested benefit. Do you expect to qualify forit?

Hi I am 67 my wife is 60 I

Hi I am 67 my wife is 60 I worked from age 15 retired at 65
After working 50 years my have small private pension that I played to have a few extras on retirement my wife worked part time and chose to put ower family first as they grew up 3 of them suffer mental health issues need a lot of support now still both supporting family
But not able to claim any help my Private pension has to substitute my wife pension for the next 6 years with out this we would like thousand of others having to sell up if you worked all your life for a decent retirement by the time my wife is 66 I will be 74 if I make it Thanks for robbing my retirement ?

They've been more than short

They've been more than short changed. They've been treated in a disgraceful manner, so the Tories can use National Insurance contributions to pay down the National Debt, so they can conceal how bad it is whilst siphoning it off to private companies they invest in/own/work for. It's a national disgrace!

I was sixty ar the start of

I was sixty ar the start of February. My retirement letter was sent to me last year. I can retire in 6 years. I am on Job seekers allowance and care for my teenager who has employment and support allowance. My life is the hardest it's been I worked for 25 years,and feel dismissed by this government.

To add insult to injury. A

To add insult to injury. A year before I got my state pension the Chancellor announced he was increasing the amount you could earn before paying tax. As I was earning less than that it meant I no longer had to pay any tax. However, when I got my state pension the following year I was told it was taxable. I now have to pay tax on my pension. How is that fair?

State pension is paid without

State pension is paid without any tax deduction BUT it counts towards your taxable income. It has always been like that.

Call yourself lucky if your total taxable income is above the personal tax allowance, as millions of pensioners don't have an income higher than the personal allowance.

You say 65 - I won't receive

You say 65 - I won't receive my state pension until I am 66!

A lot of these women must

A lot of these women must have voted CONservative so have only themselves to blame and now they realise what the CON stands for

The money is there. n I fund

The money is there. n I fund has mega money missing. Its a fallacy about cost, as the benefit system is picking up the mess, this in turn is a mess! I'm an ex nurse, not I t skilled, but have done multiple jobs since change affected me so badly. These jobs are low paid, menial,physical,0 contract and temp. The effect has been enormous.
I have the usual health issues at my age, most work is physical. I am passionate about #backto60, I am now 64.5yrs, struggling so much, mentally and physically. My family are severely affected by this. I exist,no social life, day trips.
I need an op but cannot go sick, as there is no financial back up. Like so many I have worked extremely hard all my life.I was agency for 40 years, as being single mum, no childcare, needed flexibility. I have 2 miniscule private pensions, £23 per month, did not qualify for nhs pension. Its a travesty, I hope our judicial review in June brings justice.
I am exhausted, currently, retail and housekeeping, all my education unrecognised!!

The campaign is calling for a

The campaign is calling for a bridging pension, but this is already in place. I know a woman, 18 months older than me, who has now been receiving her state pension for over a year. As a man, I have to wait for another two years. It is irksome that the WASPI campaign presents itself as campaigning against "inequality" when men are the ones receiving unequal treatment until the pension ages are finally equalised next month.

The campaigns to further delay pension equalisation for women (because that is what it will mean if compensation is given) obviously receives a lot of support from those who would benefit from it. However, how many of those genuinely did not know that their pension age was changing? How many women never read the papers, watched TV or listened to the radio? How many women never had a conversation with colleagues in their workplace where this was discussed? How many women never had a husband or sister or other relative or friend who was aware of the change?

I was born in March 1954, I

I was born in March 1954, I had no notification of the increase in pension age and only found out when asking for a pension forecast. I was horrified to learn that I do not get my state pension until September 2019, I will be sixty five and a half. I have worked without a break since I was 15 years old, I am VERY bitter about this. I planned all my working life for retirement at 60 and luckily have managed to retire but with only a very small pension from my ex employers. I survive with the help of my husband who is also a pensioner. It's easy for the politicians with their guaranteed pensions, expenses, etc, etc, etc. They are so far divorced from ordinary working people that they have no idea of the hardship they are consigning some of the populace to both now and in the future. Regardless of my own case it is unreasonable to expect people who do heavy manual labour to work on to the ages that will be expected of them from now on.