Boost your eligibility for Centrelink benefits

01 September 2020

Centrelink and retirement

By simply tweaking your super you may become entitled to some hefty Centrelink benefits that will help to stretch your disposable income a bit further, this becomes even more beneficial when investment markets are heading south and your income payments reduce accordingly

In times of economic downturn, like the health and economic impact COVID-19 has had, not only in Australia, but worldwide, self-funded retirees are the one group that experiences the overwhelming impact a market downturn has on their disposable income. You know, it’s never too late to consider all your options in order to make sure you are maximising your options when it comes to your retirement cash flow.

Centrelink plus super

One option, that can save a considerable amount of household expenditure every year, is your eligibility to access the Centrelink Aged Pension. Even if you only get $1 of age pension, you will be entitled to a pensioner concession card and all the benefits and discounts that come with it, such as concessional rates for prescription medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme as well as state and territory-based concessions on services such as travel, council rates and utilities. And, if you're already getting a Centrelink Age Pension, it's timely to make sure you are getting as much as you're entitled to receive.

The eligibility age for the Centrelink Age Pension for the 2019/20 year is 66 years.¹

However, by 20203 the age will increase to 67. Currently, the maximum fortnightly age pension including supplements, for 2019/20 is $944.30 ² for a single retiree and $711.80 for a couple, but these amounts are revised every six months in March and September. ³ An income and assets test will be used to work out how much you actually receive.

Let’s take a look at Bob and Julies situation

Bob who is 66 years of age is about to qualify and apply for the age pension, Julie, his wife, is aged 64. Julie gets a Centrelink Disability pension of around $63 per fortnight.

They have modest assets:

Home contents $10k/ Cars $10k/ Bank accounts $30k/ Shares $7k

Bob’s existing BUSSQ Income account has a balance of $535,000 and he draws $20,000 per year, Julie has a Transition to Retirement account with a balance of $235,000 and she draws $9,000 per year. After combining all three incomes they receive a total of around $30,600.

As they need about $45,000 per year to live on, their annual income is short by $15,000 per year and they take occasional lump sums from their Income accounts to meet this shortfall.

With the help of their Skylight Financial Solutions specialist, their retirement income strategy was to stop Julies Transition to Retirement payment and move her income account back to super, as it will stop it being counted by Centrelink as an asset.

In addition, Bob takes a lump sum out of his Income account, tax free as he is over age 60, and it is deposited into Julie’s superannuation account. As she is under the pension age, Centrelink does not count this amount as an asset, or assess it for income purposes. This strategy will reduce what Centrelink count overall, and therefore increase what they receive in Age and Disability Support Pensions.

Doing this has meant that their new fortnightly Centrelink pension payment is $693 each, or combined, about $36,000 per year. Add to this regular monthly income payments of $750 each month from Bob’s Income account, they now meet their $45,000 expenses. But instead of mostly self-funding their retirement costs, with a little strategic planning they are covering the majority of it with a Centrelink Pension each.

When determining whether you are eligible to receive a government pension, Centrelink applies income and asset tests.

Your assets include cash, super, investment properties, loans to family members, cars, household contents, lifestyle assets such as boats or caravans and assets held in private companies or trusts. Typically, the family home is not included in the list as long as it is no more than 2 hectares of land. Special rules apply for rural properties.

Your income includes money from employment, superannuation income and/or annuities and investments. It also includes money from outside Australia.

All government pensions are income and assets tested which means they test how much:

  • You earn from your investments such as super, income account, bank accounts, shares, annuities, rental income – the income test, and
  • Your assets are worth – the assets test

The test that results in the lower pension rate will be the one that is applied. The Department of Social Services (DSS) regularly reviews and updates the income and assets test limits to work out how much Age Pension you can get. When this happens, your regular payments change.  For more information on the Age Pension and Income and Asset Tests, go to https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/age-pension

To make the most of your income payments and to see how you can become eligible for the Centrelink Age Pension, call Skylight Financial Solutions on 1800 Skylight – 1800 759 544 and ask to speak to a Skylight specialist who will be able to provide you with all the information you need as well as determine what you need to do, if anything, to become eligible.

Centrelink Assist

If you have ever dealt with Centrelink before, you may be aware of how time consuming it can be. If it is your first time in dealing with them, it can be daunting. Your Skylight specialist can help you. Once you give us the authority to act on your behalf, we can deal with Centrelink for you, lodging necessary forms, making applications, and maintaining your information with them while you rest easy.

Using our Centrelink Assist service is a small cost compared to the benefit. You can be assured your pathway to Centrelink will be faster and we’ll make sure you get all the benefits you are entitled to.

Want to find out more?

To get some sound personal advice about your eligibility to access Centrelink benefits, talk to a Skylight Financial Solutions specialist. They can assess your personal situation and put you on the right track. Call Skylight on 1800 SKYLIGHT. 1800 759 544 to book an appointment. The first appointment is obligation and cost free.

¹ Source: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/age-pension

² As at 24 July 2020. Source: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/age-pension/how-much-you-can-get

³ Source: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/age-pension/how-much-you-can-get

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