PENSIONERS are nervously waiting to hear whether their payments will keep pace with soaring living costs.
If PM Rishi Sunak decides to keep the âtriple lockâ promise, state pensions will rise by a record Â£972 a year in April.
But if the pledge is dropped in the Autumn Budget on November 17, many will face a very tough 2023.
The triple lock means pensions will rise in line with whichever is higher: Wages, 2.5 per cent or the inflation rate, currently 10.1 per cent.
Whatever Mr Sunak decides, Harriet Meyer has seven steps you can take to boost your retirement fund â including tracking down any lost personal pensions.
1. Top up your state pension â State pension payouts are based on the number of years in which youâve paid national insurance.
You can plug any missing years by making voluntary contributions.
To pay for a missing year costs Â£824.20 and boosts your pension by about Â£275 annually for the rest of your life.
So it would take three years to make back the cost of the contribution. You can also plug missing weeks or months if you canât afford a year.
Check your NI record for any gaps at gov.uk/check-national-insurance-record. Before you pay out, make sure that you stand to benefit as not all will.
Call the Future Pension Centre (0800 731 0175) if youâre under state pension age, or the Pension Service (0800 731 7898) if youâre already at state pension age to check.
2. Maximise employer contributions â If youâre paying into a company pension, check youâre getting the most out of your employer.
Under the rules, if you choose to keep paying into your work pension, you and your employer should together contribute a minimum of eight per cent of your monthly salary when you earn more than Â£10,000 a year.
But many companies are willing to match higher contributions if youâre willing to pay in more, so check your scheme rules.
3. Delay state pension payments ââ You can claim your state pension from the age of 66, even if youâre still working.
But the government boosts your payments by one per cent for every nine weeks that you delay taking your pension.
Delaying for a year could boost your annual income by Â£542 or 5.8 per cent for the rest of your life.
4. Claim National Insurance credits â If youâre a parent who gets child benefit for a child under 12, youâll automatically get national insurance credits towards your state pension.
But if youâre a grandparent looking after a child so the parent can go back to work, the parent can sign a form to pass the NI credits to you.
Find out more at gov.uk/national-insurance-credits.
5. Track down lost pensions â Billions of pounds is sitting in forgotten pensions, with the average pot worth over Â£9,000, according to the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI).
Find pensions from jobs you left decades ago by visiting gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details or call the Pension Tracing Service on 0800 731 0193.
6. Check if youâve been underpaid â More than a hundred thousand women who reached state pension age before April 2016 were underpaid because of blunders by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb, now a partner at consultancy LCP, has created a tool that you can use to check if you might be one of them. Visit lcp.uk.com/is-your-state-pension-being-underpaid.
7. Claim pension credit ââ Hundreds of thousands of pensioners are failing to claim pension credit and missing out on an average Â£3,300 a year.
If your income in retirement is less than Â£190 a week, see whether you qualify at gov.uk/pension-credit/eligibility.
It also unlocks other vital benefits such as the Â£324 cost of living payment, a free TV licence and a council tax discount.