To receive the full state pension you need to build up 35 qualifying years of national insurance contributions (NIC) or to receive NI credits. If you have at least 10 qualifying years but less than 35 you will receive some state pension, but not the full amount (currently £155.65 per week).
The actual amount of your pension will also depend on whether you were contracted out of the second state pension and paid into a private pension instead. Contracting out is not possible after 6 April 2016.
You are credited with NIC when you earn above a minimum weekly rate (£112 for 2016-17). NI credits are added to your NI account when you claim child benefit, the child is under 12 and you are not working. If another member of your family is looking after the child while you work, you can request that your NI credits may be transferred to that person.
It is possible to make up for missed years by paying voluntary Class 3 contributions. Alternatively, if you are self-employed you can pay Class 2 NIC for restricted periods.
If you reached state pension age before 6 April 2016 and are already in receipt of a state pension, you can boost its value by up to £25 per week by paying voluntary Class 3A NIC. The exact amount you need to pay to get a further £1 per week of pension depends on your age. The top-up amount must be paid before 5 April 2017.
We can answer your questions about paying voluntary NIC, and help you budget for retirement.