Age Pension changes won’t help

Age Pension changes that recently passed through parliament and will come into effect on 1 July have been met with scepticism by many older Australians.

Lat week, YourLifeChoices surveyed its 230,000 members to see if any of the changes would actually improve their retirement.

Of those surveyed, 82 per cent are fully retired, seven per cent are semi-retired, eight per cent are approaching retirement and three per cent say they won’t ever retire.

Around three in 10 are on a full Age Pension (31 per cent), 29 per cent are on a part Age Pension and 16 per cent are fully self-funded. Twelve per cent are still working either in a full-time, part-time or casual role.

Respondents were asked to estimate their annual income, and 17 per cent say theirs is between $25,001 and $30,000, 16 per cent between $15,001 and $20,000 and 13 per cent between $35,001 and $40,000 a year. Around nine per cent receive between $0 to $15,000 a year and three per cent have an annual income of $100,000 or more.

When asked about which pension changes coming into effect on 1 July 2019 will benefit them, 16 per cent said changes to the means test will help, while 14 per cent think extending the Work Bonus will be helpful and six per cent think expanding the Pension Loans Scheme will be of benefit.

However, 63 per cent think that none of the changes will do anything to improve their retirement.

“It won’t make a gnat’s whisker of a change to me as I am a single pensioner with no home, no super, no savings. I consider it another shot in the back from the government,” wrote YourLifeChoices member, Terrib.

“Ordinary pensioners who rent and have no investments will not be better off. This means that if they continue to work until they drop, they can earn an extra $50 gross a fortnight. In the time being, the cost of food goes up each week with everything else,” wrote Jackie.

Almost nine in 10 respondents (89 per cent) believe that the Government doesn’t do enough to improve retirement for age pensioners.

What the Government can do, however, is increase the Age Pension, say 30 per cent of respondents, or provide free total universal healthcare (20 per cent) and guarantee seniors’ discounts on energy bills (14 per cent). Other suggestions favoured by our members include:

  • pay no tax (five per cent)
  • pay no GST (six per cent)
  • provide Rent Assistance increases (seven per cent)
  • provide Newstart or other welfare payment increases (four per cent)
  • cut house rates (10 per cent)
  • guarantee employment opportunities for older workers (three per cent).

One thing is for sure, the money being spent on these initiatives would be better put towards a straight Age Pension increase – at least according to nine in 10 YourLifeChoices members.

It’s not just age pensioners who are struggling. Not all self-funded retires are doing it easy, either, and some who could be affected by the elimination of franking credit refunds may also be looking down the barrel of having their modest income reduced.

“I made a big mistake … My wife and I saved hard, worked two jobs, did overtime and scrimped and saved to put money into super to be self-sufficient in retirement. We get no concessions and pay full price on everything. We are not wealthy live in an average price house and get nothing from the Government. We pay our own way. Shorten is now looking to take income away from (us) to go on a spending spree which will mean we are worse off than pensioners,” wrote YourLifeChoices member, Dick.

Another member suggests that the Australian Government looks across the ditch to a pension system that may actually work.

“How simple and uncomplicated is the Kiwi universal pension? Australia would save billions of dollars just in administration by abolishing the current system and possibly generate further income by taxing all earning from work, assets, etc. Shame the LNP & ALP are so entrenched in keeping it complicated for their own gain. And no Robodebt on pensions ever again.

“New Zealand’s public pension system, the New Zealand Superannuation (NZS), differs from those in many other countries. Its primary goal is to provide social protection rather than to replace earnings.

“The non-contributory flat-rate pension is paid to all residents fulfilling the residence requirements at the age of 65. The beneficiary must have lived in New Zealand for at least 10 years since turning 20 with at least five years spent in the country after the age of 50. The pension is financed from general tax revenues. The residency requirements are set for discussion.

“All benefits received under NZS are subject to income tax. The pension is paid regardless of whether the person is still employed or not. It is neither work nor income-tested. New Zealand has not legislated for a compulsory retirement age and employers are not allowed to specify a mandatory retirement age in employment contracts.”

What do you think would help improve your retirement? Which political party is better placed with policies that could benefit older Australians?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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