Federal Government to hand down Budget on Tuesday

NO one should lose sleep about proposed pension changes before they have all the information, a certified financial planner says.

Port Macquarie-based certified financial planner Ursula Boorman suggested not taking drastic measures or changes to your situation that could not be undone.

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison outlined proposed changes to the pension ahead of tomorrow night's budget.

He said more than 170,000 pensioners with modest assets would have their pensions increased by an average of more than $30 a fortnight from January 2017.

This will include around 50,000 part pensioners who will now qualify for a full pension under the new rules.

Mr Morrison confirmed more than 90 per cent or 3.7 million pensioners will be unaffected by the proposed changes or better off.

The federal government will reduce the maximum value of assets to qualify for a part pension, which for couples is currently up to $1.15 million, plus the family home.

People who have significant assets, for example a couple who own their own home with in excess of $823,000, will no longer be eligible for a part pension.

Couples who own their home and have other assets over $600,000 may also see a decrease in their pension.

About 91,000 current part pensioners will no longer qualify for the pension and a further 235,000 will have their part pension reduced.

The federal government has abandoned plans to index pensions to CPI.

Mrs Boorman said based on conversations with clients receiving a part pension for many years, she would say that pensioners who have in excess of $800,000 are usually grateful for a small part pension, however the concessions available for their health expenses are highly valued.

All people affected by the scaling back of the maximum asset threshold will be guaranteed eligibility for the Commonwealth Health Seniors Card or Health Care Card.

Mrs Boorman's concerns revolve around the detail of that guarantee.

"Generally speaking, as we age our medical expenses will increase so potentially the impact on my clients will be greater in the long-term if they lose access to these concessions," she said. "Overall I am pleased to see that the government has tried to balance the needs of retirees by maintaining access to concessions on pharmaceuticals while maintaining the sustainability of our welfare system."

The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association manager research and advocacy Amelia Christie said the changes to the pension asset test would shield the majority of pensioners from budget cuts, which was welcome.

"Tightening the asset test is a far fairer way of reducing pension spending than slowing indexation of the pension which would have hurt those least able to afford it," she said.


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