Am I eligible for the Government Age Pension?

24 February 2022

Reaching retirement age in Australia and finishing up at work doesn’t mean you automatically get the Government Age Pension. People often want to know ‘how much is the Age Pension’ and ‘what are the Age Pension payment rates?’ But the answers aren’t the same for everyone.

In this article we’ll review several factors that determine your Age Pension eligibility, and how much you could get paid.

Determining your eligibility for the Government Age Pension

Around 62%1 of Australians over the age of 65 receive either a part or full Government Age Pension. If you’re approaching retirement age, you might be wondering if you’re one of them.

To determine if you’re eligible, the government will consider 4 key factors. They are your:

  1. Age
  2. Residency status
  3. Income
  4. Assets.

There are some clear and simple guidelines that determine your eligibility and how much you can get. To get you started, let’s explore the 4 key factors in more detail.

 

4 key factors that determine your Age Pension eligibility

1. Qualifying age

Before you can receive the Age Pension, you need to reach what’s known as your qualifying age. This is set by the government and determines the earliest age you can get the Age Pension. Your qualifying age depends on the year you were born.

If you were born: your qualifying age is:
Before 1 July 1952 65             
From 1 July 1952 to 31 December 1953 65.5
From 1 January 1954 to 30 June 1955 66
From 1 July 1955 to 31 December 1956 66.5
On, or after 1 January 1957 67

Source: Services Australia, 17 February 2022. For the most recent data please visit the Services Australia website.

2. Residential status

In most cases, being eligible for the Age Pension means you’re an Australian resident who has lived in Australia for at least 10 years. You must’ve lived in Australia for at least 5 years consecutively. You also need to be in Australia on the day you apply for the pension.

If you haven’t been an Australian resident for 10 years, there are some circumstances in which you could still be eligible for the Age Pension. For example, you could be eligible if you’ve lived or worked in a country with a social security agreement with Australia, or if you’re a refugee2.

If you meet the age and residential requirements, your eligibility depends on 2 tests: An assets test and an income test. The test producing the lower amount of pension paid is the one used.

3. The assets test: The value of your assets

Along with your income, the value of your assets determines your eligibility for the Age Pension, as well as the payment rate you receive. To have the value of your assets determined, they’re subject to what’s called an assets test.

If the value of your assets is under a certain limit (which is different for singles, couples, and homeowners), you could get a full pension.

For most people, the asset limits (listed below) determine how much your assets can be worth before your pension may be reduced. For every $1,000 your assets are over the limit, your pension payment reduces $3 a fortnight – this is called the taper rate.

Full Age Pension asset limits
If you're: A homeowner Not a homeowner
Single $270,500  $487,000 
A couple, combined $405,000   $621,500 
A couple, 1 partner eligible, combined $405,000  $621,500


What assets are included in the test?

The assets test takes into account the value of assets you own. This could include:

  • A car
  • Business assets
  • Property (not including your primary residence)
  • Super and retirement income accounts (yours and your partner’s)
  • Investments, such as cash, shares, term deposits and bonds
  • Private trusts and private companies.

The test also considers assets that mightn’t seem obvious. These include:

  • Any deposits you might’ve paid to live in a ‘granny flat’ or retirement village for the rest of your life
  • Prepaid funeral arrangements you might’ve made
  • Any cash gifts or assets you might’ve given to family members or friends.  

For more details on these assets and their impact, including a complete list of the assets considered under the test, visit the Services Australia website.

What assets are exempt from the test?

There are a few assets exempt from the test. These include:

  • Your primary residence and surrounding land (up to 2 hectares on the same title);
  • Some properties larger than 2 hectares (on the same title);
  • Accommodation bonds paid if you move into a residential aged care facility;
  • Any property or money left to you in an estate that you’re unable to access for up to 12 months from the date of the test, and;
  • Money you’re paid from the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

For more details on each of these, as well as a complete list of all the assets exempt under the test, visit the Services Australia website.

FIND OUT MORE: SUPER AND THE AGE PENSION

 

Is your home included in the assets test?

If you own the home you live in (providing it’s on less than 2 hectares of land), it won’t be counted as an asset in the assets test. However, owning your home could still affect the rate of your fortnightly pension payment. That’s because the asset limits set by the Government are different for homeowners and non-homeowners – as shown in the table above.

For example, the difference in asset value limit between single homeowners ($270,500) and single non-homeowners ($487,000) is $217,000. So, if you’re single and a homeowner, the amount of assets you’re allowed to have before your pension’s affected is $217,000 less than if you didn’t own your home.

These limits may change over time. Please visit the Services Australia website for the most recent information.

READ MORE: THE AGE PENSION AND THE ASSETS TEST

 

4. The income test: How much you earn

Your income is the other factor considered when figuring out whether you can get the Age Pension and how much your pension payment rate might be. 

You’re allowed to earn a certain level of income before your pension is reduced or cancelled. To have your income assessed, you must take what’s called the income test.

The income test looks at all income sources. This includes employment income – wages you might earn from working – or money you might receive from businesses you own. It also looks at investment income. This includes your super and income created from financial assets, such as savings accounts, managed investments, and shares. 

For most pensioners, the standard income test applies when deciding the amount you’ll receive in your fortnightly pension.

To receive the most Age Pension, your fortnightly income needs to be under $180 if you’re single. Or, under $320 a fortnight if you’re in a couple that lives together, or apart due to ill health3.

For every dollar of income you earn over this limit, your pension will reduce by 50c for a single person, and 50c per couple.

If you earn over a certain amount in a fortnight (known as the ‘cut off point’), you won’t be eligible to receive any payments.

Age Pension cut off points

IF YOU’RE: YOUR FORTNIGHTLY INCOME CUT OFF POINT IS:
Single  $2,115
 A couple, living together  $3,237.20 (combined)
 A couple, living apart due to ill health  $4,190 (combined)

Source: Services Australia, 17 February 2022.

Your Age Pension cut off point will be higher if you get the Work Bonus. This is an incentive designed to encourage those receiving the Age Pension to work. All payments may be lower if you don’t live in Australia.

READ MORE: UNDERSTANDING THE GOVERNMENT AGE PENSION INCOME TEST

 

How much is the Age Pension?

As mentioned above, your level of income and the value of your assets affect your eligibility. They also affect how much (the payment rate) pension you get. There are different Age Pension rates for singles, couples, and homeowners.

If you’re in a couple: whether you’re married, separated, or living with a de facto partner can also affect your payment rate. 

Generally, Services Australia will consider you to be in a couple if you’re married, in a registered relationship, or in a de facto relationship4.

Adjustments to the Age Pension rate happen twice a year, in March and September. You can find the most up-to-date rate on the Services Australia website.

 

Can you get Age Pension payments alongside your super? 

If you’re eligible for the Age Pension and approaching retirement age, you don’t have to spend all your super before you’re eligible for pension payments. You may be able to draw payments from your super to top-up any Government Age Pension payments you’re entitled to. You can do this by setting up an account based pension for your super. AustralianSuper’s account based pension is called Choice Income

 

When is the retirement age in Australia? 

There’s no one set retirement age in Australia. Your Age Pension qualifying age, the age you can access your super (preservation age), and the age you retire may not all be the same. The age you plan to retire is up to you.

However, many people retire much earlier than planned. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the average age people plan to retire is 65. But the actual average retirement age in Australia is closer to 555. Reasons people retire earlier than planned include ill health, caring for a loved one, and redundancy. It highlights the importance of starting your retirement planning as early as possible.

READ ABOUT: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRESERVATION AGE AND QUALIFYING AGE

 

Need some help planning your retirement?

If this is all new to you, you may find it tricky to stay across everything. Speaking to a financial advisor or asking your super fund for general advice can be a good place to start.

For AustralianSuper members such as Doug, seeking financial advice when approaching retirement led to some life-changing decisions. These decisions resulted in early retirement and the chance to spend more time with his wife.

READ DOUG'S RETIREMENT STORY

Get help planning your retirement, register for a free webinar, and explore helpful articles and guides.

For personal advice, connect with one of our team members who can put you in touch with an accredited financial adviser.

 

FIND AN ADVISER

 

Sources:

  1. Based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Social Services.
  2. Services Australia – Residence rules
  3. Services Australia – Income test
  4. Services Australia – Relationship status
  5. ABS – Retirement and retirement intensions, Australia (2018-2019)

This information may be general financial advice which doesn’t take into account your personal objectives, situation or needs. Before making a decision about AustralianSuper, you should think about your financial requirements and refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement. A Target Market Determination (TMD) is a document that outlines the target market a product has been designed for. Find the TMDs at australiansuper.com/tmd. AustralianSuper Pty Ltd ABN 94 006 457 987, AFSL 233788, Trustee of AustralianSuper ABN 65 714 394 898.


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