When it comes to retirement, entitlements is a term we hear a lot, but it can also be misunderstood.
Many people believe that retirement entitlements are confined to government benefits, specifically the Age Pension the associated Pension Concession Card. But there are many other benefits on offer to older Australians – these form the backbone of Retirement Essentials’ daily discussions with retirees who wish to know what their entitlements are and how they might be claimed.
Today we offer a handy checklist that you can review now, file for later, or share with a friend.
Age Pension entitlements
Yes, this refers to a full or part Age Pension and Pension Concession Card. But it also includes the Pension Supplement, Energy Supplement and Rent Assistance. As we covered recently, the process to apply for an Age Pension can be quite onerous. Our Customer Services Team leader, Steven Sadler, believes the best way to prepare for any application is to start with the free Age Pension Entitlements Calculator to gain an idea of what you may be entitled to. That way you are fully across the kind of information you will be asked along the way. As well as your current likelihood of eligibility. If the calculator confirms entitlement, or close, the next step is to assemble all the necessary information.
What do you need to prove?
The team who work with our members to help them get their entitlements have prepared very specific checklists for those they are representing. Details can vary, but in essence, Centrelink will wish to see:
- Personal information including proof of birth date, citizenship, residency in other countries and identity including (if you have one) a Centrelink Reference Number (CRN) and a Tax File Number (TFN)
- Proof of income might be pay slips, company earnings statements, tax returns and/or Notices of Assessment, severance payments, foreign income and/or superannuation details.
- Additionally, proof of income from assets may include bank account statements, investment and property returns.
Since November last year, the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) has become available to a high proportion of self-funded retirees in Australia, based on the increased income threshold of $90,000 for singles and $144,000 for couples (combined). Many retirees are unaware of this increased availability, and that there is no assets test. Others just ‘haven’t got around’ to applying yet. As we’ve reported before this can be a great money saver when it comes to medical services and pharmaceuticals as well as a range of other benefits depending upon where you reside.
What type of documentation do you need for a CSHC?
Happily the list of documentation is not quite as long as it is for those seeking an Age Pension. Again, however, you will need to cover the same broad areas of proof:
- Personal information includes passport, citizenship, overseas residence, Centrelink Reference Number and a Tax File Number
- Income includes a Tax Return or Notice of Assessment, evidence of pension drawings and member statements regardless of whether your super is industry, retail or in a Self-Managed Super Fund
- Bank account details are also required.
Are there entitlements also attached to your super? There are certainly benefits that are offered to those of a certain age. As many retirees can attest, it’s helpful to have as full as possible an understanding of the rules of super as early as possible. Why? This is because there are many strategies that are triggered when you turn a certain age or wish to make a major financial decision. Not knowing these at the right time can prove very costly. Examples are:
- Reaching your Preservation age and being able to move funds into a lower tax environment
- Benefitting by employing the ‘younger spouse’ rules to improve your Age Pension entitlements
- Paying down a mortgage thus reducing assets and moving below eligibility thresholds
- Selling a property and contributing large sums under ‘Downsizing Contributions’ allowances.
As we mentioned, whether you wish to call these benefits entitlements or not, they are opportunities to maximise your income by knowing the rules that apply and using them in a timely fashion.
Tips and traps:
What it’s best to know beforehand
There are quite a few ‘oopsies’ that can occur with entitlements according to Steven. Many people have a MyGov account and number, but not everyone has a linked Centrelink Reference Number (CRN). It’s helpful if you have gone to the trouble of creating this before you start dealing with Centrelink, as it’s sure to shorten the process for you.
For Age Pension and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card purposes, it’s also useful to know that Centrelink requires original documents for your date of birth. If you don’t have a passport, this means an original birth certificate – not an Extract of Entry.
Partner status is also important. We have written about Centrelink’s definition of relationships previously. Steven mentioned a recent client who had just married his partner. But they had been in relationship for many years, although each lived in their separate family homes. In Centrelink’s eyes, this makes one of these houses an investment property and the new spouse was technically not ‘single’ while receiving a single Age Pension payment. This client and his new wife are now facing a very difficult discussion with Centrelink and they could be made to repay funds. Sadly, this was probably avoidable, but they simply didn’t understand the ‘fine print’.
Apart from the above-mentioned benefits of the Age Pension, concession cards and super concessions, there are quite a few other entitlements that are yours to claim if you wish. Many of these are associated with state-issued seniors cards. Benefits include travel and transport discounts, cinema discounts and some pharmaceutical benefits. Certain travel organisations will encourage mid-week seniors visits whilst some supermarkets, optometrists and hearing specialists also offer discounts to those aged 60 and over. But remember, you’ll need to speak up to claim them.
How can we help you?
Circumstances vary enormously for older Australians. Some have substantial savings and are well-supported by financial professionals such as accountants and planners. But that doesn’t mean it’s not helpful to have an independent source of information, updates and reminders in your email inbox every week, letting you know of any changes or possible strategies that may be of use. It’s worth checking our weekly enewsletters to ensure you’re up to date.
Separately the majority of retirees and pre-retirees will need to interact with government services well before they retire. Retirement Essentials provides a suite of affordable, bite-sized advice consultations for such members. Here’s some of what we can do for you in a guided review of your income possibilities:
- Age Pension application support
- Commonwealth Seniors Health Card application
- Retirement Forecasting (Compare two scenarios of how your assets and income will look during your retirement journey).
- Understanding more about super (Assess the options to help make your super work better for you).
- Maximising your entitlements (Assess any changes you might be able to make to maximise your Centrelink entitlements)
- Understand impacts of your home mortgage (look at the benefits of repaying or maintaining your mortgage in retirement)
What’s your situation?
Do you feel on top of all your entitlements?
Or are you concerned you may be missing out?