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Searching for information about the Age Pension or other Centrelink payments can be a little like travelling off the beaten track without a map. Or finding yourself up a certain creek without a paddle… if you’ve begun the search you’ll know what I mean.
In case you haven’t heard, Centrelink now comes under the umbrella of Services Australia so any googling for Centrelink will land you at Services Australia.
Hit the main page of the Services Australia website and you will be faced with a selection of options to choose from, posed as the question ‘What can we help with?’ The selection tiles suggest they can help with things like ‘Raising kids’, ‘Living arrangements’ or ‘Ageing’ to name a few.
If you select the ‘Ageing’ tile, you will be faced with yet more choices, each one leading you down a different path and you may end up feeling a little like Alice in Wonderland. But what if you just want to know what you can get? Luckily, there is a way.
What payments and services am I eligible for?
The answer to this question lies with the ‘Payment and service finder’ tool. It’s easy if you know what you are looking for. Start your search by following these three steps:
Locate the search function. It’s a white space in the middle of the large blue banner at the top of every page on the Services Australia website
Type in ‘Payment finder’ and you will be presented with an online tool that does exactly what it says – find payments you may be eligible for.
There’s a trick here – you must tell it what your circumstances will be, not necessarily what they are now. Say you are preparing for when you reach Age Pension age next month. You should complete the questions as if you are already Age Pension age, otherwise it will not present Age Pension as an option.
Another tricky question is about your ongoing health circumstances. For instance, the option for ‘Carer’ means you are a carer, not you have a carer. If you have a disability or a chronic medical condition, select this too.
Once you are happy with the answers, hit ‘submit’ and you will be presented with a list of payments and programs you may be eligible for. Not just Age Pension, you may also be eligible for a Carer Allowance or payments to help with a specific medical condition, concession cards and more.
How much can I get?
Once you know what you may be eligible for, the next big question is how much?
Let’s assume you are presented with Age Pension as an option, it will have a button ‘Estimate rate now’. Click this and you will be taken to the payment estimator. Finally, you’ve arrived!
Unfortunately the payment estimator has some limitations. The income and asset tests can be quite complex and not all scenarios will be covered. But with a little knowledge you can get a reasonable estimate of what you might be able to receive.
The questions asked by the payment estimator for Age Pension entitlements come in two parts:
- Your income: Gross wages, compensation, foreign pensions, income from real estate or your own businesses, and defined benefit income streams all go here. (Note: income from financial investments such as interest, dividends and account-based pensions do not go in this section). If you earn money from working then enter this in the ‘work bonus balance’ field – either $300 or the gross amount you earn per fortnight, whichever is the least. See later example for how the Work Bonus can benefit you.
- Your assets: Here you put in all your financial assets, and the market value of assets like vehicles and household contents. Market value means what you could get if you sold the asset, not what the replacement cost would be.
The calculator then adds everything up and applies the income and asset test to your information and provides you with an estimate of the amount of Age Pension you might be entitled to.
I already get an Age Pension, is there any other assistance?
Centrelink administers many payments, programs and services on behalf of government departments. Some payments you may have never heard of. As your circumstances change, it is a good idea to check out what you may be eligible for.