Finance Your Budget Ask the Expert: We discuss JobSeeker eligibility and the role of savings

Ask the Expert: We discuss JobSeeker eligibility and the role of savings

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Licensed financial adviser Craig Sankey answers your burning finance questions. Photo: TND
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Question: I’m thinking of downsizing, as the children have moved out. Hopefully I will be about $250,000 better off after the sale and purchase of our new home. Given the current COVID environment, I’d like to put this money somewhere safe, and not in shares or super. What are my options?

A common misconception is that super is an ‘investment’.

However, it’s just a structure to hold investments. So, within your super you could invest in very secure assets such as cash and fixed interest, or more growth-oriented assets such as shares. There is no requirement that you must leave your super in the default or balanced option.

Therefore, the first step to consider is where you wish to hold your funds, whether that be within super or in another structure.

Another structure may simply mean holding the investment in your own name – in a joint account with a partner or family member – or in a formal trust structure.

Secondly, there’s the issue of which investment assets should you invest in.

With your $250,000, given you have stated that you want somewhere safe to put your money, you may have to invest these funds into a fixed-rate term deposit or a high-yielding bank savings account, and accept the lower returns associated with these low-risk investments.

With savings accounts, there are some that will pay additional or bonus interest if you regularly contribute and make no withdrawals – however, it is important to understand the rules around this and read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement.

Question: My husband is retired and will be 70 in September. I retired two weeks ago and am 60 years old. If he applies for the age pension, does my superannuation count towards assets if I leave it in an accumulation super account or if it is transferred to a pension account? (My husband is getting a pension payment from his super.)

If you retain your super in accumulation, then it does not count towards your husband’s assets for age pension purposes until you reach the pension age.

But if you transferred funds into a pension (or cashed out into a bank account), then yes, these funds would be counted.

Depending on your overall level of assets, you may be able to transfer a portion of your super without it affecting your husband’s age pension. All of your husband’s super, whether left in accumulation or transferred into a pension will be counted as he has already attained age pension age.

Centrelink eligibility is an important consideration but be sure to consider all of your objectives before making a decision, i.e. total income required, ease of access, tax implications etc.

There are potential strategies available to enhance your Centrelink entitlements and your overall position, therefore I recommend you seek personal financial advice over your situation.

Question: I’m asking on behalf of someone who has been stood down from their employment due to COVID-19 restrictions. Their employer is a large company with some unaffected divisions, so they are not on JobKeeper subsidies. My stood-down friend is subsisting on occasional shifts that the company must staff – some weeks it equals what would be available on JobSeeker, some weeks there has been nothing. Can this person get Jobseeker? Or do they have to exhaust their savings and their saved holiday leave before being eligible to apply?

Potentially, your friend may be eligible for Jobseeker or a concession card.

As a result of COVID-19, the Morrison government made changes to JobSeeker from March 25 – September 24 and recently announced an extension until the end of this calendar year, although at a reduced rate.

Employees including full-time, part-time, casual or contractor, may be eligible for JobSeeker payments if they have, due to the impacts of COVID-19:

  • Been stood down
  • Lost their job
  • Had their working hours reduced.

The asset test is currently waived along with some waiting periods until September 24. However, the Income Maintenance Period still applies.

Under the Income Maintenance Period, termination payments and leave payments/accrual are assessed under the income test for a specified period of time. 

This may reduce, or prevent, your friend from receiving JobSeeker payments initially, but after they serve the waiting period, they may then become eligible.

Applications may be able to be made online, through MyGov, or in a Centrelink office.

Craig Sankey is a licensed Financial Adviser and Head of Technical Services & Advice Enablement at Industry Fund Services.

Disclaimer: The responses provided are general in nature, and whilst they are prompted by the questions asked, they have been prepared without taking into consideration all your objectives, financial situation or needs.

Before relying on any of the information, please ensure that you consider the appropriateness of the information for your objectives, financial situation or needs. To the extent that it is permitted by law, no responsibility for errors or omissions is accepted by IFS and its representatives.