You need 30 years of National Insurance contributions to get a full State Pension when you retire.
You can pay voluntary contributions to fill or avoid gaps in your National Insurance record if you don’t have 30 years of contributions.
You may have gaps because:
- you’re ill and not working and don’t get any benefits
- you’re unemployed and don’t get any benefits
- you live abroad and don’t have to pay National Insurance
- you’re self employed making a profit under £5,725 and don’t have to pay National Insurance
To get bereavement benefits you need to pay 39 years of National Insurance contributions for women and 44 years for men.
Check your National Insurance record
You can apply for a National Insurance statement from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to check if your record has gaps.
The State Pension calculator estimates your qualifying years and likely pension.
HMRC sends out gap letters each year. If you get one it’ll tell you how much of a gap you have and how you can pay.
Decide if you want to pay voluntary contributions
You may want to pay voluntary contributions because:
- you’re close to State Pension age and don’t have 30 years of contributions
- you have gaps in your National Insurance record and want to fill them
- you know you won’t be able to pay 30 years of contributions during your working life and want to avoid gaps (more years for bereavement benefits)
However, you have to be eligible to pay voluntary contributions.
HMRC has more information on deciding if you want to pay voluntary contributions.