Don’t be scared of getting older – with age comes wisdom and a number of benefits. What are the perks and entitlements of being a senior citizen, and how do you go about utilising them? Here’s how to make the most of your golden years.
While arguably not a perk, a pension is something you are certainly entitled to after years as a taxpayer – provided you meet the relevant criteria, of course.
Kaye Fallick, publisher of YOURLifeChoices, a website aimed at mature-age people, warns that accessing a pension “is not that easy”.
Access to a pension is via an income and assets test assessing how much you still earn, as well as your core assets excluding your family home.
For this reason, Ms Fallick recommends “thinking ahead and doing some tinkering with your income and assets before you leave the workplace” to ensure eligibility.
In addition to these limitations, your ability to access a pension is also determined by your date of birth:
- Women born before 1st January, 1949, reach the qualifying age at 64.
- Women born between 1st January, 1949, and 30th June, 1952, qualify at 65.
- Men born before 1st July, 1952, qualify at 65.
Once you have determined your right to claim, it’s up to you to register an intent to claim, complete the appropriate forms, gather your supporting documentation (proof of identity, details of your income and assets, bank details, proof of residence and any other forms specifically requested) and place your claim either online or with a claim form.
Currently, the maximum basic age pension rate for a single person is $751.70 per fortnight. The maximum basic rate for a couple is $566.60 per person per fortnight.
If you choose to withdraw your super funds at or after the age of 60, your payment will be tax-free, with the only exceptions being those who are members of untaxed schemes. As long as you meet a condition of release – i.e. retirement – you can avoid tax and receive your benefits as one lump sum or as a superannuation pension, also known as an income stream.
Trish Power, founder of Superguide.com.au, a online superannuation information service, advises that having a superannuation pension is a good option to enjoy a tax-free income in retirement “assuming you have sufficient super savings to deliver you that regular income”.
The government provides a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card for people who have reached pension age and are able to meet eligibility requirements:
- Do not qualify for payment from Department of Veteran’s Affairs
- Meet an income test
- Meet residence requirements
This card allows for access to cheaper prescriptions and the possibility of bulk-billed GP consultations at the discretion of the doctor.
Older Australians also have access to free vaccinations against influenza and pneumococcal disease, breast screenings, bowel cancer screenings, pap smears and prostate cancer tests.
Annual health assessments are also available for those aged 75 and over (55 and over for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders).
Applying for a seniors card is undoubtedly the best way to access all the upsides old age has to offer. According to Ms Fallick, most companies offer a five to 10 per cent discount on their products for senior cardholders. The card is also honoured in New Zealand, so that’s a travel destination to keep in mind when planning your next getaway.
The conditions vary from state to state, so look below for a summary of when and how you can apply to score discounts and free public transport.
NSW: Free for those aged over 60, who work no more than 20 hours a week in paid employment. Provides public transport concessions and shopping discounts.
NT: Free for people aged 60 and over, offers discounts at over 630 businesses.
QLD: Applicants must be permanent residents of Queensland, aged 65 years or older and working less than 35 hours a week. Straight discount cards are also available for those 60 years or older.
SA: Offers free public transport for permanent residents aged over 60 who work no more than 20 hours per week in paid employment.
VIC: You must be 60 years of age or over, working less than 35 hours per week in paid employment, or fully retired to qualify.
WA: Available for permanent residents aged 60 or over, working 25 hours or less per week.
ACT: Available for those aged over 60, who are permanent residents with no more than 20 hours of work a week.
TAS: For permanent residents aged 60 or older, working no more than 20 hours per week.
More often than not, making the most of your old age isn’t about “what’s offered on a website or in a discount book,” says Ms Fallick. “Normally, it’s just a fact of asking at point of sale what seniors’ discounts a business offers. It’s quite remarkable what you can get.”
A “massive benefit” of obtaining a seniors card is the public transport concession, according to Ms Fallick.
The transport entitlement scheme has been national since 2010 and allows for a hefty discount on tickets, with the occasional free day of public transport.
Ms Fallick also says it is important to note that the concession program encompasses a 25 per cent discount on standard fares on the Great Southern Rail (The Ghan, Indian Pacific and The Overland) which provides the possibility for memorable, affordable railway journeys.
Besides, one of the biggest benefits of looking, well, mature is your God-given right to sit down on the train/bus/tram no matter how busy it is.