If you haven’t already done so, obtain a pension forecast from HMRC – use the gov.uk website, sign up for the Government Gateway access service, and check your National Insurance Contribution records, as well as your UK tax records. You’ll have to apply to contribute, using form CF83 attached to the booklet NI38, Social Security Abroad.
You will then be told what pension you can expect at your retirement age, and you can also see how many incomplete contribution years you have. It is generally good advice to continue to make voluntary contributions after leaving the UK (currently £795.60pa), but if you are currently self-employed, you will only have to pay at the Class 2 rate, £158.60pa for the current year.
You’ll receive details of how to make up the shortfall, by bank transfer or cheque for past years, and by direct debit for the future if you wish to see payments taken automatically. Importantly, you can also call to obtain advice concerning whether it would be worthwhile doing this, and how additional payments will increase your pension entitlement – it might take a while to get through, especially due to the current Coronavirus lockdown, but you should find the staff helpful when you do.
Also make sure you understand what your French contributions entitle you to and try to obtain a projection of your future pension in France. This might prove difficult at present, with offices closed or providing limited services.
Having worked in the UK, Italy and now in Spain, I want to claim my State Pension
The first thing to understand is that you should retire formally in the country you are currently living in, unless you haven’t made any pension contributions there – in which case you apply to the last country in which you contributed.
So, in this case, you approach the Spanish authorities and will have to provide details of all your employment and self-employment history. Spain will then check with each country concerned (the EU-wide scheme ensures this is possible – work history outside the EU means you may have to apply individually to those countries) and will calculate your entitlement.
They will do this by adding together the contribution years of each country and then applying this to their own pension rules. Don’t forget, official retirement age can vary in different countries, and some state pensions are more generous than others. A second calculation is made, whereby all the individual pension entitlements are worked out, and the totals added together. Then they will award you the higher of the two figures, and will handle payments to your bank account, obtaining reimbursements from the other countries involved, according to your previous contribution records.
So, you do not have to have the minimum contributions in each country you have worked in. Having said this, if you have done so, the chances are you will benefit from minimum pensions from each country, which will produce a higher figure than otherwise. But this system means it may well not be necessary to continue to make voluntary contributions as your combined contribution history is more than sufficient.
How is healthcare affected? Any other advantages?
The good news is that receiving your pension locally will mean that your access to the local healthcare system comes with it – no need for a form S1. So, any attempts by the UK to remove themselves from the S1 scheme will not affect you.
Receiving your total State Pension entitlement in Euros has to be a distinct advantage, as it removes exchange rate risk from your retirement income. So, although a pension from a former UK employer will have to be paid in Sterling (but see below), and is therefore at risk from a weakening Pound, at least your State Pension will be paid in the currency you spend.