Workers urged to apply for State pension early to avoid losing payments

Don’t wait until retirement year before applying, says former pensions ombudsman

Workers are running the risk of losing out on State pension payments because they fail to apply in time.

Former pensions ombudsman Paul Kenny said many people assume they only need to apply for their pension when they turn 66, but he warned that it is not that easy.

“People need to ensure that they apply on time for their State pensions, so they don’t lose out,” he said. State pensions are only backdated by six months, he noted, so if people are late applying, the Government will not backdate beyond that.

The pension is paid at a maximum rate of €248.30 a week, with an additional payment of €165.40 payable for a dependent if they are under the age of 66, or €222.50 if they are older. Missing out on payments even for a few weeks can be a significant financial blow, especially for those without private pension provision.

"People think they can just apply for their State pension when they are eligible, but they need to have all the information gathered first," Mr Kenny said. "Ideally, you should apply at least six months out and, prior to that, you need to apply for your social welfare record, which can take time.

“People often find gaps they can’t explain in their social welfare/PRSI record that might take time to sort out. Others who thought they were not entitled to a pension often discover that they are.”

New job

He also advised people approaching retirement age to consider a new job to “fill the gap” between retiring and being entitled to the State pension to maximise their entitlement.

“Many won’t appreciate how important it is to get credits onto your record if there is a gap between retiring and State pensions age. By working for a single week, you get into Class A and all credits that you get after that are in Class A – not a lot of people know that.”

He was speaking ahead of Pensions Awareness Week, which begins next Monday, and aims to raise awareness about retirement planning and help people take charge of their long-term savings.

“The time to start planning for your retirement is your first week at work,” said Mr Kenny. “But I would like to see people looking at the opportunities at least in mid-life so they can be prepared.”

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times