How we’ve helped in 2022:
Reassurance, income and health prioritised
At this time of the year our thoughts often turn to giving. So this week we asked our frontline team – Nicole, Sharon and Steven – if they would take time out to share how they believe they have given value to the many retirees they have worked with this year.
These meetings may have taken place by phone or in an online Zoom consultation. They may have been about entitlements, unpicking complex financial rules or the best use of assets.
Whatever the topic, read on to learn how our three colleagues were able to put people’s minds at ease and empower them to make decisions they had, in some cases, been dreading. (We’ve changed names to preserve privacy). Sometimes there was a clear financial benefit with a new strategy. But it’s not always about extra dollars – reassurance, more options and clarification have been important as well. And then there’s Barbara who believes Steven has saved her a life-threatening journey …
Adviser, Nicole Bell:
An extra $180 per fortnight is not to be sneezed at
Lesh emailed me the other day to thank me for our time and let me know that, because she and her partner had spoken to me, they were able to get in touch with Centrelink and have the additional land around their home declared exempt (as they have been there for more than 20 years). They are now getting $180 per fortnight more in Age Pension payments because of this discussion. Overall Lesh says that they have a much better understanding of their asset position and exactly how Centrelink views their circumstances.
I also spoke to Arthur this week. He previously paid $8,000 for financial advice and became angry and frustrated because he felt that the adviser was just trying to sell company products and not looking into their best interests. He considers himself quite financially literate but he just wants to be able to speak to someone who can run through the rules, so that he can feel reassured that he has interpreted information correctly – and there are no critical rules he’s missing. Our discussion made him much more confident in making his financial decisions for retirement, and he plans to come back regularly and check in to see where they’re up to. This is so common, people wanting to pick our brains to make sure they’ve not missed anything. Immediate financial value may not be obvious but they just feel so much more empowered in making their own decisions.
Adviser, Sharon Sheehan:
Avoiding visiting a Centrelink office
Liz and Peter previously received an Age Pension but lost it when the taper rate went from $1.50 to $3.00 per fortnight in January 2017. Peter is about to turn 80 next year and is deaf and losing his eyesight. Liz contacted us because she believed we could help her by standing in for them and getting a part pension for them through Centrelink, as opposed to visiting a Centrelink office herself. She chose to pursue a phone appointment to get her application underway as she did not have great confidence in her own computer skills. She did not want to queue in a Centrelink office or deal with someone who could lack empathy. At the end of our phone meeting, Liz was very happy, saying:
‘You’ve given me a lot of options which I can understand. I’ll go through this quietly after this call. You’re sending me more options which is really great. Thank you very much.’
An extra $562 for Martin and Anastasia
Just married this month, Martin previously received the Age Pension as a single pensioner. Now Anastasia’s employment income is affecting his pension. But Anastasia is below Age Pension age. As a couple assessment, Martin’s entitlement will be reduced to $11, 246 per annum (or $433 per fortnight). Anastasia is turning 65 next year, and has $200,000 cash in bank, which is deemed and affecting her new husband’s pension.
As Anastasia is able to access super after her next birthday, any cash not currently needed can be contributed to super (which is an exempt asset for anyone under Age Pension age) until she reaches age 65 (contribution caps haven’t been met). Contributing $100,000 into super, and leaving only $100,000 cash in the bank, increases Martin’s pension to $11,808 per annum ($454 per fortnight), or an extra $562 for the year.
Steven Sadler, Head of Customer Service:
Dealing with Centrelink when you have life-threatening conditions
Barbara now lives in the UK but was an Aussie for many years and has become eligible for the Age Pension. Her issue is that she has a serious medical condition that affects her immune system making even common colds dangerous. This health issue it is more prominent in warmer climates, hence the reason that she moved to the UK from Australia.
She had a very tricky situation as she would have to move back here to apply for the Age Pension. Given her health challenges, she was hoping to apply, get a quick approval and then get back to the UK as soon as possible. I tried to explain the situation via email but it didn’t work for her and we needed to do a consultation, so I ended up having two separate consultations with her, each at about 8pm AEST which was mid-morning for her in the UK.
Throughout the two calls I explained to her that not only did she have to return to Australia, but that she would actually be expected to stay here for two years before returning to the UK. I then spent some time researching the Social Security Law to see if her condition changed anything or allowed an exemption (unfortunately it didn’t as it wasn’t going to take her life within the next 12 months, presuming she didn’t get sick).
There was quite a lot of digging and researching to try and see what Barbara’s options were. She was incredibly grateful for this extra work, as she was about to book flights to Sydney to apply through Centrelink but found our site first so thought she’d suss it out and thank goodness she did. Ultimately she decided not to apply because it was too risky and that it might mean her health would deteriorate too much.
It was a pleasure to help her – she was so grateful that I made myself available at 8pm, plus the extra research to look at alternate options and exemptions given her health,
that she even offered to pay a third fee to cover the time. Returning home to apply was a potentially life threatening decision so she was appreciative that we went out of our way to find out exactly how Centrelink would assess her, so she could make the best overall decision before getting on a plane.
No two days are the same when it comes to helping our members to maximise their entitlements and to better understand ways of ensuring they are also maximising all income. Nicole, Sharon and Steven take a great deal of pride in applying their knowledge to the various challenges the Lesh, Arthur, Barbara and Peters of the world share with us.
There’s no substitute for knowing exactly how the different retirement income rules work apply to you, nor for seeking support if you are unclear how different options might work in practice.