I recently heard a story of a couple in their late 60s who are providing for themselves in retirement. They have never applied for the age pension.
The story goes that they believe they would be entitled to at least a part age pension, however, their visits to Centrelink (even just to make some basic enquiries) – have been a very daunting and stressful experience; so much so they have not bothered applying for the pension. Thinking it couldn’t really be that difficult, I started to explore the process of applying for the age pension. The good news is that if you have a computer and an internet connection, you can apply online. However, if using the computer at your local library, you had better make sure you book plenty of time because this is not going to be a quick process. And if you don’t already have a Customer Access Number (for a Centrelink online account), or a Customer Reference Number, you will still need to personally visit a Centrelink office to provide proof of identity. But if you don’t have access to a computer, don’t despair! You can apply the old-fashion way by filling in some forms. When deciding to claim for the age pension it is advisable to read an Information booklet (15 pages!). This will help you determine if you are in fact eligible to claim the age pension. In order to apply for the age pension, an application form needs to be completed. This form asks for information about the applicant and the spouse or partner – if they have one – even if the partner is not claiming the age pension (yet). The application runs into another 25 pages! Interestingly, the application form doesn’t ask for any information about the applicant’s financial position. This is obtained from yet another 17 pages – the Income and Assets form. The folk whose story prompted me to write this missive also have a small home-based business. It is a low-key affair that provides a source of social interaction along with a modest income. As they are technically running a business, they will need to provide details of their business (an 8-page form). If they have real estate (in addition to their home), details will need to be provided in another eight pages. And if they have an interest in a private trust – that requires completion of a further 29 pages – including instructions. In addition to the forms that need to be completed – applicants will also need to provide the proverbial truck load of supporting documents. Applying for the age pension can be a bit like running a marathon. You need stamina and endurance. It is understandable that processes need to be in place to ensure that those applying for the age pension, or any other government benefit for that matter, are legitimately entitled to the benefits they seeking. But somehow, bureaucracy seems to have taken control!