New rules for government pensions

From 1 January 2015 new Centrelink rules could affect your government age pension entitlements for the rest of your life. Let’s look at what the changes could mean for you.

Have you spoken with a financial adviser recently?

It pays to be aware that if you receive a government age pension and set up or make changes to an account-based pension after 1 January 2015, you may be worse off. You have limited time to work out whether reviewing or setting-up an account-based pension before 1 January 2015 will help you—it’s a good time to seek advice.

What will the changes mean for you?

All account-based pensions (ABPs) including allocated pensions - set-up after 1 January 2015 will be assessed the same way as other financial assets. So if you’re receiving a government age pension it may be reduced as a result. This also applies to those ABPs set up before this date that are not eligible to preserve the old rules.

If you’re eligible, it’s not too late to set up an ABP before 1 January 2015 under the current rules. In fact, doing so may preserve your government age pension entitlements.

Are you eligible?

If you have money in super but you haven’t set up an ABP yet, you may be able to preserve or maybe even increase your government pension entitlements if you are:

  • Male or Female and aged over 65 at 31 December 2014
  • Receiving a government age pension by 1 January 2015

When’s the best time to set up an ABP?

As an example let’s take a look at Jane and Michael’s situation to see how the changes to Centrelink will work.
Jane and Michael are about to retire in November 2014 as they will reach age pension age of 65. They own their own home and have super of $150,000 (Jane) and $135,000 (Michael) and no other assets.

If they leave their money in super, then Centrelink will deem it to earn 2% pa on the first $79,600 and 3.5% pa on the balance (ie income of $14,481). They are currently entitled to an age pension of $32,337 pa combined under the income test. If the deeming rate was to increase to say 4% and 5.5% respectively, then their age pension would reduce to $29,487 pa combined, a drop of $2,850. On the other hand, if Jane and Michael used their super balances to start ABPs before 1 January 2015 and draw the minimum income of $14,250 combined, then only $31 is counted under the income test and they would receive the full age pension of $33,035. This is $698 pa more than if they left their money in super. The reason for this is that under the current income test for ABPs, an amount is ignored each year worked out by dividing the initial start balance by their life expectancy at that time. In this case Jane and Michael can draw up to $6,938 pa and $7,281 pa before anything is counted under the income test. And better still – if the deeming rate was to increase to say 4% and 5.5% respectively, then their age pension would not be impacted and remain at the full level.

But if they wait until 1 January 2015 to transfer their super money to ABPs, then they will be subject to the new deeming income test for ABPs, which will deem their ABPs to earn 2% pa on the first $79,600 and 3.5% pa on the balance (ie income of $14,481). This is no different to leaving their money in super and they will receive a reduced age pension of $32,337 pa.

What if you make changes to your existing ABP?

Any changes you make to your ABP after 1 January 2015 could make your ABP assessable under the new rules - for example, if you:

  • Change your ABP provider
  • Combine multiple ABPs or consolidate super into your ABP
  • Add or remove a reversionary beneficiary (a person you’ve nominated to receive your pension income when you die)
  • Cease receipt of a government payment
  • Start a death benefit pension for anyone other than a reversionary beneficiary.

It’s important to speak with your financial adviser about whether setting up or reviewing your ABP now will help you preserve any age pension entitlements you may have.

What should you do?

Now is a good time to look into the opportunities you may have to preserve your age pension entitlements. Speak with your financial adviser today and if you need help finding an adviser, visit or contact AMP on 131 267 Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday between 9am and 5pm AEST.

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© AMP Life Limited. This provides general information and hasn’t taken your circumstances into account. It’s important to consider your particular circumstances before deciding what’s right for you. Although the information is from sources considered reliable, AMP does not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. You should not rely upon it and should seek qualified advice before making any investment decision. Except where liability under any statute cannot be excluded, AMP does not accept any liability (whether under contract, tort or otherwise) for any resulting loss or damage of the reader or any other person.