Rural people who have shunned the more conventional superannuation environment, who are under 65, are now finding themselves ineligible for Farm Household Allowance under Centrelink’s rules.
That’s the warning from Rachel Bock, a financial counsellor with the Rural Financial Counselling Service North Queensland, who said some people’s savings were not as beneficial as they could be.
“I see many clients with funds put aside for retirement, not fully utilising the benefits of the superannuation environment,” she said. “In some instances, I’ve seen these off-farm assets push them over the FHA asset limit, and they’re deemed ineligible for payment.”
Ms Bock said the situation may be able to be avoided if funds were invested in more conventional ways, because superannuation benefits are generally exempt from the asset calculation for those under the aged pension age.
There might also be tax benefits associated with investing funds within the superannuation environment, she added.
Some people had tried super funds and not felt in control of their money, Ms Bock said, explaining their decision not to use them to manage their retirement planning.
“They have this fear of being ripped off, and so they’ve just got their money in a personal bank account,” she said.
“Much as I understand how they might feel, it’s not working for them now, to do that.”
While she and the other six experienced counsellors in the RFCSNQ service aren’t able to give financial advice themselves, she suggested that people who may be in this situation speak with their accountant or financial adviser to look further into how investing within the superannuation environment may improve their current and future financial position.
As Farm Household Allowance payments have begun coming to an end, Rachel and her colleagues have also been urging those affected to contact a counsellor rather than facing their hardship alone.
“There is always something we can do,” she said, “and there are so many more options before people get into strife than after.”
Some of the things the counselling service can do is assist clients to understand the financial position and viability of their business, identify the options they have to improve their position, and help develop a plan to implement the options that a client chooses.
RFCSNQ and the other 11 services nationally, funded jointly by federal and state programs, provide a confidential, free and impartial rural financial counselling service.
Contact details can be found at www.rfcsnq.com.au