Tony’s plea for help on Work Bonus

Tony is in his 70s but needs to find work to fund his retirement over the next 10 to15 years. He says he is struggling to understand the Work Bonus rules and is desperate for some guidance.

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Q. Tony
My wife and I receive a full Age Pension. We are in our early 70s and rent. We have been living off our savings and the interest generated. But in the financial climate of the past seven years, most of us in the 70s-plus age bracket have seen our savings and, more importantly, the ‘interest’ on savings dwindling down to almost nothing.

This leaves me with having to look for full or part-time work to survive over the next 10 to 15 years.

Trying to understand Centrelink’s website is, at times, like dancing in a minefield.

With part-time and or full-time work – only one of us is capable of working – at what point do I lose the entire pension and how would that affect my wife’s Age Pension?

My wife relies heavily on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medications for severe rheumatoid arthritis. Is that likely to be affected?

A. You are correct, the Work Bonus is confusing.

Without the Work Bonus being applied, once your combined income is over $3040.40 per fortnight (this includes income from investments), neither you nor your wife would receive an Age Pension.

Under the Work Bonus scheme rules, if you don’t work, Centrelink will add $250 to your ‘bankable balance’ each fortnight until the total reaches $6500.

If you take on part-time work, the first $250 per fortnight will not be assessed. However, as you have not claimed the Work Bonus previously, you could have all of your fortnightly income classes as exempt. For example, if you earn $400 per fortnight, Centrelink will apply the Work Bonus of $250, plus draw down $150 from your ‘bankable balance’.

Once your ‘bankable balance’ reaches zero, only the fortnightly Work Bonus of $250 will be exempt.

From next July, an increase to the Pension Work Bonus announced in Federal Budget 2018 will allow age pensioners to earn up to an extra $50 per fortnight – or an additional $1300 per annum – without reducing their Age Pension entitlement.

If you retain a part-Age Pension, then you and your wife will retain your Pensioner Concession Card and access to PBS medication. If you lose the Age Pension, you will also lose the Concession Card but may be able to receive a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card if your income is below the threshold.

The information we provide is only general and you should make an appointment to speak with a Centrelink Financial Information Services officer to discuss your specific financial circumstances.

If you have a Centrelink question, send it to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer it, or find someone who can.

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Disclaimer: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.

Written by Debbie McTaggart

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