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I’m a money expert – key mistake could cost you £144,000 in retirement and how to avoid it

SAVERS could be missing out on hundreds of thousands by not making a key move ahead of retirement.

It applies to Brits between the ages of 45 and 70 who are missing out on years worth of National Insurance contributions.

Claire Trott said a bug problem is people not even checking their contributions

National Insurance is a tax all workers must pay once they earn a certain amount of money.

Contributions go into a government pot that pays for benefits like sick pay and the state pension.

That means you get some of the National Insurance contributions (NIC) you put in back.

Anyone aged between 45 and 70 set to receive the new state pension and missing National Insurance contributions (NICs) can plug gaps back to 2006.

The deadline to do so was recently extended, as we explain below, but many people don’t even know they have any contributions and can therefore miss out on thousands of pounds.

The Sun spoke to Claire Trott, divisional director for retirement and holistic planning at St. James’s Place about the biggest mistakes people make with their NI contributions.

People don’t even look at their NI contributions

Claire said the biggest mistake people make is to not check whether they have any missing years.

In order to get the full state pension, savers need 35 years’ worth of NICs.

But people often have gaps to fill from over the years if they were unemployed, on a low income, or self-employed.

Thankfully, the government introduced a scheme which allows people to sort out their missing years.

Households were set to have until April 5 to backdate any missing payments in the last 17 years – this is where they make voluntary contributions.

After this date, they would have only been able to backdate payments by up to six years.

However, in a shake-up announced last week, that has now been postponed until July 31, giving people more time to get their money in order.

Claire said that while she believes the July extension has gathered more interest in people knowing about the scheme, they aren’t seeing how much they might be missing.

She said: “It is important to have an understanding of your overall contributions.

“Checking your NI contributions and knowing you are going to work enough to get the maximum means it isn’t necessary to keep a close eye on them.

“Although personally I do dip in when I am looking at the Gov Gateway to check that it is progressing as I expect year on year.

“The Gateway provides a lot of other information about your tax code so one more click doesn’t hurt.”

Savers can check their NI contributions for free, online via the government gateway – like you check your HMRC records.

You’ll just need a relevant form of ID, Claire said.

Once you’ve logged in you’ll be able to see your pension forecast – if you have any missing years then it’ll say so.

One thing Claire said to watch out for is that if it says “you’ve got the full state pension”, then you shouldn’t need to do anything.

However, if it says something along the lines of you having “35 years” then do phone the helpline to check.

While this is how many years you technically need for the full state pension, there might be a gap somewhere so it’s important to double-check.

Don’t just make contributions right away

Once you’ve worked out what years you have missing, don’t just start making voluntary payments right away, Claire said.

She added: “People should always contact the future pensions service before making any contributions to avoid making unnecessary contributions that won’t boost their income in retirement, but also to ensure that any they do make are allocated correctly.

“Getting the correct amounts and payment information is key or it will be of no benefit to you in retirement.

She said that for some people, making contributions now won’t make sense.

They also need to be sure that they are not going to build up enough through work or other credits – talking through this with the service can help clear up any misunderstandings about statements or figures.

Claire said: More consideration is required where the numbers are more challenging if there is a disparity between what you can hope to accrue before you reach state pension age.

“Advice and guidance can be very valuable here.”

She added: “If the forecast shows that only three more years are needed, and you intend to work full time or receive credits for three years, then there is no need to do anything more.

“In addition, with just three years to accrue before retirement, then buying additional years, should you decide to cease work, shouldn’t be a problem because there are plenty of years until state pension age.

“There are other ways in which to accrue state pension credits some of which are automatic and some need to be claimed.”

People could be missing out on £100,000 plus

While every saver will have a different number of missing years, if any, Claire said that people could miss out on £144,000.

She said: “It is difficult to say, but if you don’t have at least 10 years NI record you will not get a state pension at all, this came into effect in 2016. 

“At the current rate of £185.15 a week, not factoring any potential future uplifts, an individual with no state pension would miss out on £144,417 over 15 years.”

Claire said: “When looking at the state pension forecast the first thing to consider is the projected pension figure, and then what you have already earned based on the current records and how many more years you need to get the full amount.”

Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing

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