As part of our considerations around whether giving up work and skipping the country was financially viable, we needed to check how it might affect our entitlement to the state pension (not that we’ll get one for another decade!).
Currently you need 30 ‘qualifying years’ (ie you paid enough National Insurance contributions that year) to qualify for the full amount however, from 2016 you need 35 qualifying years. The announcement of this change caused us a minor panic, but as it happened, we have the 35 years anyway – before a certain date you got credit for being at school from 16-18, so we had more qualifying years than we realised. You can request a printout of your contributions record here.
I did discover that if you are getting a pension already, leaving the UK to live elsewhere is a minefield, depending on which country you move to. Residence in certain countries (including most Commonwealth countries, bizarrely) means that your state pension will never increase from the level at which it’s first paid, no matter how much it goes up in the UK. It’s outrageous. However I couldn’t discover anything that covered people who are constantly on the move – vagabonds seem to fall into unchartered territory.