O'Donnell Kerr Financial Planners
  • 24 March, 2021

Age pension entitlement... it can be confusing

Am I receiving my correct age pension entitlement?  

It is a question that is often asked. Unfortunately, it is not always fully explained by the correspondence from Centrelink or Veterans Affairs.

Why am I talking about this issue now?  

On 20 March 2021 - last Saturday – the Age and Service Pensions were increased, the first increase in just on 12 months. Pensions are normally adjusted or increased twice a year in March and September, but I am sure all pensioners will remember that, because of a negative CPI figure last year, there was no increase to the pension rates in September 2020.

However, last Saturday the single pension was increased from $944.30 per fortnight to $952.70 per fortnight and the couples combined pension was increased from $1,423.60 per fortnight to $1436.20 per fortnight.

Most mainstream media outlets covered the increase in the pension, and I am sure that those eligible are looking forward to a small increase in their pension entitlement.

But as my esteemed colleague PK often remarks “it depends”. Some pensioners will not see any increase in their pension and may in fact see a decrease.

Why would this be the case?

In addition to adjusting the pension rates for movements in the CPI in March and September of every year, Centrelink and Veterans Affairs also automatically review and adjust the value of a pensioner’s investments in Shares and Managed Funds.

And since September last year the share markets in Australia and around the world have grown substantially. For example, the Australian market has grown by approximately 16%, the UK market by 14%, the Hong Kong market by 21% and the US market by 22%.

This is all good news for all investors and for my superannuation fund.

However, the downside for pensioners who are receiving a part pension and are invested in these areas either directly or through managed funds is that they may see a decrease in their pensions because of an increase in the value of their investments.

It is extremely important for retirees who are receiving a pension from either Centrelink or Veterans Affairs to remember that your entitlement is based on your income and assets and any movement in these values can have an impact on your entitlement. So, it is imperative for pensioners to ensure that the information that Centrelink or Veterans Affairs hold is correct and up to date.

If, over the last six months, you have sold shares or managed funds or withdrawn substantial funds from your bank accounts, you need to make sure Centrelink or Veterans Affairs are aware of the changes to ensure your entitlement is correct.

I should mention here that if the market were to fall as it did at the beginning of last year, you do not have to wait for the automatic review by Centrelink or Veterans Affairs in March and September. You can ask for a manual review to be conducted on your entire portfolio.

But please be careful when requesting a manual review; if you have one investment which is not performing, you are not able to request a review of just this investment, the review will be conducted on your entire investment portfolio.

If you are unsure of your correct entitlement based on your current share or managed funds portfolio, please speak to an expert and not your next-door neighbour who, regardless of how convincing they appear to be, can provide you with incorrect information which at the end of the day could not only ensure your pension is assessed incorrectly but could also upset your relationship with your friendly all-knowing neighbour.

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