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Start the year right with the 2022 Retiree Checklist

Nothing stays the same for retirees, especially during a pandemic, with concession cards such as the Pensioner Concession Card and the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card again used to target government support.

This is our list of what retirees need to be aware of in 2022. It is a long list and not everything will apply to your situation.

Managing your risk

1. If you deal with or need a financial adviser, check their credentials using the ASIC Financial Adviser Register.

2. If you manage your own superannuation, it may be a good time to review other ways of managing your savings, understand the difference, and familiarise yourself with the responsibilities of managing your own superannuation

There is a lot of responsibility and administration that may be better organised by a large company that may be offering better and cheaper service than was available when you first decided to manage your super fund yourself.

Apply for the age pension or Commonwealth Seniors Health Card

3. Confusion around how to apply for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card means many eligible self-funded retirees give up. In addition to the confusion around eligibility, there is confusion around what card holders actually get. In recent years it has become clear that the Government uses the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card to identify self-funded retirees. The income support during the pandemic, and more recently access to Rapid Antigen Tests, shows that having the card can mean more than just help for medical and pharmacy costs. Claiming up to 10 Rapid Antigen Tests will available for holders of a Pension Concession Card (i.e recipients of the age pension), Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, as well as DVA cards. 

4. You are now eligible for the age pension at 66.5 which is a little confusing if this is the year you turn 66. Make a diary note to look closely at age pension application 12 weeks before the actual birthday so you can address any hiccups well in advance of your first payment being due. 

5. As soon as you get your Pensioner Concession Card, start applying for your entitlements, including:

  • Gas rebate
  • Electricity rebate
  • Water rebate
  • Council rate discount
  • Drivers licence and registration concession

6. If you are turning 66.5 this year and you are not eligible for the Centrelink age pension, make sure you know why, so you can get ready to apply if things change.

7. If not eligible for an age pension, perhaps you are eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, which is income tested and could save you more than $2,500 on healthcare costs. If you think you were not eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, check again. Low income returns on investments and changes in deeming rates mean that your eligibility may have changed.

8. If you have a younger spouse, there may be an opportunity to organise your super to maximise your entitlement to the age pension. See here

Update Centrelink

9. If you are already receiving a part pension, make sure Centrelink is up-to-date with the right data. For part pensioners, a change in assets of $10,000 could mean an extra $780 per year in age pension payments. Check the right value for the car or caravan is in the system, and household contents are realistically valued, not at cost but at sale value. These assets are means tested so it's worth it. Your savings may have changed due to a holiday, renovation or medical emergency. Making contact may increase your pension.

Get MyGov organised

10. The Government is working at a rapid pace to get you to access departments online. If you haven’t arranged a setup online, now is the time. Here are some of the things you can do via MyGov:

  • Easily update income and assets by accessing Centrelink
  • Check your Medicare claims and track your safety net threshold by accessing Medicare
  • Complete your tax at the press of a button (or two) using MyTax
  • Start collecting your health data for easier use via My Health Record

Check on what you are entitled to

11. If you are in NSW, hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, and haven't applied for the Seniors Energy Rebate, you should do so. You need to re-apply for this each financial year (This is not for age pensioners).

12. If you are in NSW, hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card or get an age pension, and live in a regional area, apply for this year’s $250 Regional Seniors Travel Card after 18 January for your 2022 Card.

13. Travelling by public transport in NSW? If you want to make the most of government transport help, take a look at the following: Pensioner OPAL Card, Pensioner Travel Vouchers, Country Pensioner Excursion Tickets and Regional Excursion Daily (RED) Tickets. Got all that? Hopefully you have more time to plan now you are retired?  

14. Make sure you keep searching for entitlements, concessions, rebates, programmes or whatever they are called. In my list, I have more than 40 and counting. Policies change, governments try and get re-elected, budgets have announcements - it’s a moving feast. Everything from replacement appliances, fishing licences, pet registration and stamps from all levels of government. Oh yes - in different departments in the different levels of government too. There’s work to do here. We work with our clients to make sure they get all they are entitled to.

15. If you are part of a couple, make sure you are registered for the Medicare safety net as a family or couple. This is something most people set up when they first get married but things can change a lot over time and this is definitely worth having. With access to Concessional Medicare Safety Net thresholds as a holder of a Pensioner Concession Card or the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, this one is a no-brainer.

Making and adjusting your plans

16. If you are trying to work out how your savings are going to last, try the ASIC Moneysmart Retirement Planner. It's much better than many of the services provided by for-profit companies as it includes age pension eligibility, and works this out over time. 

17. While you are making plans, why not look out how your spending compares to the ASFA Retirement Standard. This is a great tool for checking how your spending in retirement might look if things are going well, and how your spending could look if you had to tighten your belt.

Fine tuning your investing

18. If your investments are hard to track, hard to organise, or you cannot link your investment strategy to your retirement plans, it might be time to consolidate and simplify. There is a link between asset allocation strategies and expected returns. ASIC explains it here.

19. For Australians in later life more likely to invest at the conservative end of the spectrum, the reliability of returns in a diversified portfolio improves. Use these expectations, an understanding of spending, and expectations of Government support to be the basis of long term retirement spending plans. It’s easier than it sounds. A long-term plan should be easy to hang your hat on - with the discipline in making regular reviews to make sure the plans still make sense - and of course with crisis meetings when things unexpectedly change - think medical emergency, aged care, sudden yearning for travel, urgent house upgrades and maintenance, bailing out a child... the list is endless.

20. Environment, social, ethical, responsible - these are all words we are seeing a lot. Aligning your investments with your beliefs is now easier and cheaper than ever before. 

Home Equity Access Scheme (formerly the Pension Loan Scheme)  

21. If you own property and need a top up for your day-to-day living expenses, the Home Equity Access Scheme may be right for you. The interest rate has just been reduced to 3.95%. 

22. If you are eligible for the Centrelink age pension at $0 you can apply for the Home Equity Access Scheme. What this means is that you can apply for a loan even if you are a self-funded retiree. This may suit people with illiquid assets that stop them from getting an age pension, who may be cashflow poor. The Scheme now allows recipients to draw down a lump sum as well as regular payments.

Check the timing of the Budget changes

23. Many of the key changes in the May 2021 Budget have not yet passed legislation but are supposed to come into effect 1 July 2022. Take a closer look if you:

  • Are between 66 and 74, not working, and want to put more money into super
  • Are looking at downsizing and you are 60 or over.

Aged care planning

24. If this is on your radar, start planning. Home Care Packages have waiting times and unique means testing outcomes that should be understood when looking at the wait.

Some final words

25. Low interest rates, unpredictable markets, long lives, uncertain future expenses - this story is the same balancing act, yet different in this age of low interest rates. Putting all the elements together takes work, but is worth it for the peace of mind. Independent advice will help you get this setup in your best interest.

 

Brendan Ryan is a financial adviser and Founder of Later Life Advice. This article is for general information purposes only and does not consider the circumstances of any person.

 

6 Comments
Dinah
January 20, 2022

Thanks so much for this great and helpful article.

Tom Taylor
January 19, 2022

To me most of the advice revolves around being a pauper with your hat out asking for alms. Why would anyone want any charity from governments who do everything they possibly can so that you qualify for the pension. What? so when you retire and dare to spend more than six weeks overseas they can suspend your pension???? I am 68 and still working because I love what I do.

Dave
January 13, 2022

Before retirement people should consider making their mortgage into one with a redraw facility. Then at retirement you have ready access to extra funds when needed. I retired with 0 on mortgage but kept the loan active to ensure access to funds when needed. It is important to know that once you stop work you no longer have the ability to get a new credit card or bridging loans. We draw $70,000 from super each year but banks and card companies refuse new cards or increased credit
limits that someone working on same income would get without question.

Alex
January 13, 2022

Yes, 10 free RATs, but where are they? What happened to the hundreds of millions paid by governments to the big consulting firms to manage this mess. We blame governments but why does nobody focus on their ineptness in not seeing any of this?

Antony
January 13, 2022

Alex …. it’s not enough we’ve been turned away from PCR tests, if we get one wait 3 days for results now we’re left to hunt and hunt to find a RAT ….. then we have to pay BUT now unless we self report a positive result we will be FINED $1,000. In most cases we’re all trying to do the right thing … been vaccinated, now sitting in self isolation with Covid ….. are they asking us to dob in our neighbour?? How else will they enforce the fine? Really the credibility is starting to be questioned. Australians are a sensible compliant population but pushed too far …..???

Alex
January 13, 2022

Hi Antony, yes, but how many people will not report a positive RAT. There's no way of fining anyone for not reporting it, or are they going to check garbage bins for used tests? While I would self isolate if I had a positive RAT, I sure would not report it and end up on some government data base forever.

 

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