EVER wondered what a difference a day makes? Forget about '24 little hours' as the song goes - by my calculation it's three long months.

Maths has never been my strong point, but hear me out.

If you turned 65 last Wednesday, congratulations and enjoy a long and healthy retirement as you join the band of UK pensioners.

But if you arrived in the world 64 years 364 days before that, you might be cursing nature for playing a cruel trick on you.

That's because you'll likely still have to continue setting your alarm to get up for work until March 6 next year, when you'll be 65 and a quarter.

Before you start moaning too loudly though, bear a thought for anyone unlucky enough to have gurgled their first from 1971 onwards - they'll have to keep slogging away until the grand old age of at least 68.

Here's why - the state pension age rose last week for millions of people under plans announced in 2011 by the Coalition Government to cut billions of pounds from the UK's welfare bill to cope with an ageing population.

The age at which we can pick up the pension we've funded with our National Insurance contributions is gradually increasing from 65 to 66 until October 6, 2020. After that it will rise to 67 by 2028 and to 68 by 2039 - unless they change the goalposts again and some people might have to continue working even longer.

Each year of delay in pocketing your pension after the age of 65 is potentially going to cost you around £8,000.

For men, having to wait a few months or years more before they can slump in their armchair in front of the Jeremy Kyle Show is the first time they have seen their retirement age go up since the modern system was introduced in 1948.

But women's state pension age been pushed up from 60 to 65 over the last eight or so years and it's now increasing to 66 by next October, all in the name of equality. There have understandably been lots of kicks and screams over what many perceive to be the brutality of the change and there was a victory of sorts when the High Court recently ordered a judicial review of women's state pension age increases.

Financial services company AJ Bell has warned the changes could have a major impact on our finances.

Senior analyst Tom Selby said: "A state pension age increase probably isn’t what most people asked for in their Christmas stocking, but that will be the reality for many people who are about to turn 65.

"While this might feel like a cruel lottery for those immediately affected, younger generations will need to prepare for rises in the state pension age to 67 and 68.

"Indeed, if life expectancy continues its long-term trend upwards, a state pension age of 70 could well be on the cards.

"For most savers, and particularly younger people, the clear signal coming from the state is that if you want security in retirement, you need to provide it for yourself."

Although the pension age rises have been well publicised, the vast majority of taxpayers are still confused by the changes.

A survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of Age UK concluded that a quarter of people between 50 and 64 are unsure when they'll be able to collect their pensions.

Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams said: "The most pressing and immediate concern is the hundreds of thousands of people in their 50s and 60s who are unable to carry on working today, and who are really struggling financially as a result.

"We are thinking, for example, of lifelong manual workers crippled by arthritis and carers who have given up work to look after an ailing partner or parent, and who face the prospect of being totally broke as they wait to claim their state pension.

"The government needs to do much more to help people in this position now.

"More support should be given to those who are badly affected by increases in state pension age, like men and women earning low wages who are completely or mainly reliant on the state pension to get by in retirement."

So, when the time comes to finally hang up whatever it is, how much will you get?

The amount you'll be paid is based on your National Insurance record before the new state pension was introduced in 2016, as well as contributions and credits since then.

The full amount is currently £164.35 a week - you can check how much you'll be entitled to at yourpension.gov.uk

How does that compare with other major European countries? The answer is there's no easy answer and it's difficult to make comparisons.

Spain has a minimum means-tested pension, which works out at around £155 a week for a single person, while the maximum possible is £535.

The least you can get in France is £130 a week, the most around £340.

In Germany, most workers' pension insurance payments are compulsory, but there is no statutory minimum, maximum or full pension.

The International Monetary Fund reckons a means-tested state pension in the UK would be much fairer and more affordable.

The IMF says: "Giving less pension to the wealthiest retirees could free up resources to finance general benefits.

"At the same time, similar redistribution objectives could be pursued by using the tax system (e.g. by increasing the tax burden relatively more on better-off pensioners), while preserving a simple and clear structure for state pensions.

"Means-testing for access to social benefits in old age could also be used to improve sustainability while safeguarding the most vulnerable.

"Alternatively, similar redistribution objectives could be pursued by using the tax system, while preserving a simple and clear structure for state pensions."

Finally, UK pensioners can look forward to a £220 boost next year thanks to a system known as the 'triple lock', which ensures the state pension rises every year by the rate of inflation, 2.5 per cent or the increase in average earnings, whichever is the highest - and wages came out top on 2.6 per cent.