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
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Have you been affected by the state pension age changes for women? We'd like to hear your story. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Its absolutely disgusting,for people who were born in the 50s to be robbed of our pension,what horrible little person made that rule,also everywhere in Britain gets a free bus pass at 60,but if you live in Northern England you don't get it,their is absolutely no level playing field in this country,makes my blood boil.
Equality works both ways I'm afraid.
I am getting rather tired of hearing women moan about this topic. All year we have been bombarded with facts and figures on the imbalance women face in the work place compared to men. Thats absolutely correct and it should be equal but you can't pick and choose equality on the basis of when it suits you. There has been no mention of men in this article and in particular those who have been enduring hard physical graft every day for fifty years and the fact that they must now continue (assuming they are physically able of course) for another two years. As for the lady bemoaning the fact that she must retire at 66 when her husband retired at 65, well he must be older than you and I suppose you were just unluck enough to catch the cut off. Im sorry you have to work another year but for decades men have continued on for another five compared to women. Where is the equality in that? I don't much lile the idea of facing another two years myself but you would have to be pretty naive not to realuse society is changing and getting older. It's expensive so unless we want to start paying 33% income again as we did in the 1970s we just have to put up with it and your longer life span. Stastically speaking anyway.
state pension for born in 195os
why so brutal to us hard working women who not only worked hard out side the home but in side was back breaking no inside running water are toilet dolly and tub to wash clothes taking all day back braking miserable labour carrying heavy buckets of water l was born in 1955 not the best years my poor mum died aged 46 and l am in pain with osteoarthritis l was helping my mum at the age of 7. l never stopped working from the age of 13 in the mill. low pay half the pay of males. l was so tired, l fell a sleep before my tea, mum worked in mill to she never saw a pension
I have another 5 years to go…
I have another 5 years to go before I get my state pension and when the savings run out, our property will become our pension fund. Not only have the government stolen my pension, they have stolen my children’s inheritance!
I was in employment from age 16 to age 60 and paid full contributions.
I have had no income other than the allowance for being a carer for my Mother until last March last year. I will not get my State pension until November next year so feel it is very unfair as previous generations got their pension at 60.
My wife got the state pension at 60 - I had to wait until I was 65.
While I sympathise with the those women who have lost out - restoring pension rights to 60 for them would open a can of worms in respect of men.
Equality works both ways.
If you lower the age pension for women the same applies for men no ifs and no buts what's goodfor one is good for the other
I have been working since the age of 17. I am 60 now, I have been a cancer patient since the age of 40. I sympathise with the waspi women who have lost there pensions, like myself, and have to work until they are 66 years old. I feel I have been robbed by the parliament who have allowed this to happen. The government are busy paying benefits to people who haven't done a day's work in this country. It's a complete mess and I may be dead by the time I reach pension age. DWP are incompetent and a bunch of clowns who do not want the pension age to go back to 60 for women but yet they are paying millions of pounds to those who have no legal right to benefits.
What's happened to my 41 year contributions? I'm sick of this country and how it is mistreating the wadpi women. My heart goes out to those women who have lost out. :0(
I feel so sad that people like myself born 1955 have worked so hard and now no reward ....I have worked for social services for 34 years children's service ....and had a double wammy made redundant and no pension ..
I stated work at 15 .
How's this works as I Would have worked
51 years before I get a pension
I worked until I was 63yrs. I sold my house and downsized as I wanted to have money for when I retired.
At 63yrs I was unable to get a job, I was then diagnosed with breast cancer, no financial support was available until my savings went below £6000, then I was given £170 a month until I got my pension ( only received money for 4mths.
At 65 4mths I got my pension.
I am now contemplating selling again, or get out equity from my house as I have not enough to live on to give me a good standard of living.
Single people living alone struggle .
I was born October 1950, I lost out on my pension of 6 months.
Is it ok that I lost that money when I had worked 40 years. I think the right thing that the government should do is pay all them that lost out on the pension they were entitled to.
I always believed I would retire at 60. I was a teacher for the biggest part of my life and paid a lot of money in tax and insurance. When I reached 50, I decided that the job was a lot for me to cope with and left teaching to do a physical occupation still believing that 60 was my retirement age, the job was underpaid and very hard work physically, I started to suffer badly with my health and even though I enjoyed the job I had no option but to leave. I did so knowing that benefits would be hard to get and so for two years lived on my meger savings. I made it to sixty five years and seven months, it was hard.
I feel aggrieved at the fact that instead of being able to have a holiday at the end of my working life ; I worked all my life, or do something really special I had to worry about my health and be so mean with myself to get by. Now being the age I am I feel even more angry that the age of retirement may be even higher in the future. One never knows what ones health is going to be like in later years, a body gets older and physical work is more demanding on the body, it definitely wears the bones out, this actually happened with me. What also annoys me immensely is the fact that the benefit system is so unfair, I actually felt terrified of claiming what I may have been entitled to, even after years of paying into the system.
There should definitely be some form of compensation, maybe some of the money I put into the system, via tax and national insurance should be reimbursed. Let us hope that something is done or good hard working women will be either getting ill or dying before their time.
All of the people born in the 1950's should have their money reinstated back to the age 60. Some people who do not make it to 60 because of poor health so need to have some quality of life. I had 3 friends died in their late 50's. This is why we should fight for our rights.
I am 60 now and I take care of my granddaughter who is 4 years old with life fretening medical problems and I've to look ROF work every day as well going on line every day and looking after my granddaughter, medical needs
Pension for 50's women.
I was 64 when I received my pension. I struggled because my husband died. I only received the widows pension for 12 months which was another blow this obviously hadn't been updated in line with the pension increase. I could have coped with the first increase we had warning but when David cameron increased the age again" this is what we should be compensated for" he didn't give us enough time to prepare!!!!!.
These women were informed 24 years ago about this and numerous times in between.They have chosen to ignore it and not planned for the rise in age,as we men have had to,since this inequality was brought in over 70 years ago.
Many women have chosen to jump on the band wagon,for freebie rebate.You were told,now get on with it,as we have had to.
I found out 2 yrs before I became 60 of the pay rise & as we are always going on about being equal to men it was probably inevitable that this would happen but what I find unfair is as I get to 65 (July 2020) I still have to wait til I'm 65 & 5months (Dec 2020) before I can claim my pension, I then find out that the age rises again in Oct 2020 so I've got to wait another 7 months before I cam claim my pension, having worked since I was 15 & still working now at 64, having given up hairdressing to foster 2 children with special needs who are adorable but extremely hard work and I can't enjoy my own grandchildren as much as I'd like to.
Increase retirement age
What benefit do the state gain extending the retirement age when the youth of today need all the support to get a job
I was born in December 1951,I was nearly 63 before I could claim my state pension.My son was killed in a road accident when I was 58 and I took early retirement as I was a staff nurse working for the NHS for 42 years,I just couldn’t go back to work ,It made me very ill.I had to support myself for nearly 5 years instead of 2 years with the change in pension for women of my age,using all my saving