In YourLifeChoices’ 2018 Retirement Matters Survey, 5190 respondents revealed how they stretch their retirement income. They said they took fewer or no holidays, did not dine out or buy takeaway food, shopped only at discount stores, went only to doctors who bulk billed, did not go to the dentist and did not use heating or cooling.
They’re tough strategies for challenging situations. But rather than cutting back, how can older Australians make money to supplement their income? Here are some simple ways to earn a little extra cash – and maybe have some fun at the same time.
Just remember that anyone on an Age Pension needs to be aware that extra income may result in a reduced pension.
If you are able to pay to store your furniture and personal effects, then house-sitting can be an interesting way to make extra money.
Be warned that storage can cost between $116 and $2000 a month, according to spacer.com.au, so do your homework and assess whether you’ll come out on top.
If the sums work for you and you’re interested in moving around the city, state or country – or even heading overseas – then house-sitting is an option.
Consider these sites, which generally require a paid-up membership:
You can nominate the areas you’re happy to move to, and the times, but the reality is that you are at the mercy of the market and will need to be flexible.
2. Tap into the value of the family home
Option A: A reverse mortgage
Deloitte’s 2015 Reverse Mortgage Report estimated that Australian retirees had amassed $500 billion in home equity. About 40,000 had taken out around $3.6 billion in reverse mortgages to create a cash flow to fund their needs.
The typical reverse mortgage was for around $92,000 and the average age of the borrower was 75.
These types of mortgages, which are available only to those aged 65 and over, are a loan against your home with proceeds able to be taken as a lump sum, income stream or line of credit.
While interest is charged, neither that nor the principal amount borrowed needs to be repaid while you (and whoever else is named on the home’s title) live in the property.
Option B: Home reversion scheme
Under a home reversion scheme, you sell a portion of your property to a lender for cash. But this option is limited to just one provider, Homesafe Wealth Release, which offers the Bendigo Bank-backed scheme only in parts of Sydney and Melbourne where home prices are unusually high.
No repayments are expected under the scheme. Instead, your lender buys a proportion of your property and becomes a joint owner.
Another option is the revamped Pension Loans Scheme, which is due to undergo major changes from mid-2019. This scheme allows age pensioners to borrow against the value of their home and not make repayments until the property is sold.
Option C: Building on your property
If you have sufficient land, it may seem attractive to subdivide and build a second residence to sell.
The potential problems? You need a big back yard, and you have to construct a driveway through to the second home. Beware that council planning requirements can be expensive and Age Pension entitlements might be affected.
3. After-school care
Most schools run before and after-school care programs for parents who can’t drop off or pick up their children to fit in with regular school hours. After-school care programs regularly seek people who are experienced with children and have time to spare. You’ll need a Working with Children Check.
4. Dog walking
Walking is a great way to stay fit and active, and walking with a dog or dogs can be fun. Start with just one dog and progress to more if you feel comfortable. If you’re asked to walk big dogs, ensure the owners provide you with a leash system that lets you stay in control.
5. Sell, sell, sell
Are there items hidden away in your attic or garage that have not seen daylight for years? Then get rid of them on such sites as eBay and Gumtree.
Many older items might now be back in fashion – who regrets getting rid of all those EPs and LPs decades ago?
Popular items include: vintage suitcases, storage trunks, jewellery, comic books, sports memorabilia, typewriters, bags (especially leather satchels), wooden beds and non-digital cameras.
6. Restore furniture
In our time-poor society, furniture tends to be junked rather than restored and loved all over again. Many councils have bulk rubbish collection weeks and these can provide a treasure trove of items that you can restore at your leisure and sell once completed. Start small and maybe do a course in furniture restoration. Some community centres and Men’s Sheds offer guidance in that area.
7. Discover the gig economy
Research shows that one in 10 Australians is taking advantage of the gig or sharing economy, including many retirees who use it to supplement their income.
Well-known platforms include Uber, UberEats and Deliveroo, but also consider caravan sharing business Camplify; pet-sitting site Mad Paws; Spacer, a platform that rents out any available space you may have for storage and car parking; Car Next Door, a peer-to-peer car sharing service; ToolMates, a platform for tool and equipment sharing, and Airtasker, which is an option for cleaning, admin work and all sorts of odd jobs.
8. Take in a boarder or rent a room
If you can clear out a spare room and don’t mind some company, consider a boarder. This may be an overseas student, although that would require you to provide a certain number of meals every day, which can tie you down. You could advertise for a boarder or go through an agency, including Airbnb.
9. Become a salesperson
YourLifeChoices member Catsahoy says: “I became an Avon lady at 49; now at 74, I still sell. As with delivering junk mail, it gets me out of the house, plus we have meetings every couple of months, so I get to meet new people all the time. I have had to cut down on the number of customers I had as the walking was getting too much, but it’s a good way to earn a bit of pocket money. The trouble is that I’ve become my own best customer. And since they started selling kids’ clothes and toys, I buy for the grandchildren as well.”
10. Online surveys and market research
Many companies will pay you to complete surveys online. It won’t make you rich, but it all helps. You could also sign up to take part in market research or to participate in a focus group. Just Google ‘focus groups’ to get started.
Also consider supervising exams or assisting at a polling booth.
YourLifeChoices member Jurassicgeek offered this feedback: “I was doing this [surveys] for about eight months and I finally had done enough to get a payment – $47.88! As per the rules, I declared it as income to Centrelink (I’m an Age Pensioner). The way they carried on was as if I had made a million dollars. I was immediately placed on fortnightly reporting and they wanted to know how much I made every fortnight! It was $47 in eight months! I was called in for an appointment because my ‘circumstances had changed’.”
Have you tried any of these strategies? Did they work for you or were there implications for your Age Pension?