Tag Archives: NewStart

Ageism

I met a man today. I was strolling around my garden with Mogi, and my first coffee of the day, when he came to read my gas meter.

On the way out, the Gas Man made a smiling comment about Mogi, my pint-sized chihuahua cross, and we got to talking about dogs:

Be sure to get my good side

A lot of conversations start with dogs in Warrandyte. The Gas Man has two Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

One thing led to another, and I soon discovered that the Gas Man spends most of his working life walking the hills of Warrandyte, checking meters. I’ve walked some of those hills, and they are bloody steep.

I must have looked utterly horrified, because the Gas Man quickly explained that there were very few places where he could [safely] park his car, so in between parking spots he had to walk. On really hot days he’s ‘allowed’ to start at six am so he can finish by about 1pm.

I looked at the Gas Man and saw someone in his mid fifties, with a weathered face and a bit of a paunch. He was cheerful and well-spoken, but he looked older than me, and I’m 66.

“You haven’t considered a career change?” I asked.

The answer shocked me. No, he hadn’t considered getting another job because he knew that if he left this one, he’d never work again. Ageism.

The Gas Man is doing the kind of job men twenty years younger would hate. What’s worse, he’s going to have to keep walking the hills of Warrandyte until his body fails, or the company decides he’s not efficient enough any more. I can guess what happens after that because it happened to me too. You apply for NewStart to ‘tide you over’, but no one wants to employ you, so you scrape along until you finally qualify for the pension.

Why does no one want to employ you?

I’ve thought about this a lot. I imagine that in physical type jobs, older workers are seen as less ‘strong’, or perhaps even as a liability – e.g. what happens if they have a heart attack on the job? Given how many physical type jobs are already automated, why employ an older person when there are hundreds of younger ones available?

White collar workers are in a slightly different boat. We may have experience and skills, but will we be able to learn the new technology? More importantly, will we expect to be paid commensurate with our skills and experience? And what happens if we get sick? The statistics show that older people fall prey to all sorts of debilitating illnesses. Better to hire someone with lower dollar expectations and a longer [working] life expectancy.

And then there’s the perception that older workers will retire soon so why bother training them up?

I’m not saying that I have had personal experience of these scenarios. I haven’t. Most of my experience is of silence. You send off your CV and nothing comes back. You ring up a few places to inquire if they received your CV, and there’s a kind of embarrassed ‘oh, we’ve got you on file’. That translates to, ‘yes, we probably got it and binned it straight away’. I have very good qualifications, but the earliest ones date back to the 1970’s. You can’t hide that.

No one admits to ageism because it’s ‘illegal’ to discriminate against someone based on age, but it does happen. More importantly, the bar to employment is getting lower all the time. I shudder to think what will happen when the workers of the ‘gig’ economy become too old to maintain that frenetic pace. Age may be ‘just a number’, but it’s a very important number.

When the Gas Man went on his way, I finished my coffee and dragged out the lawn mower. If he can walk up and down our hills, rain or shine, five days a week, I can do a bit more mowing, even if I my bones do creak a bit. Motivation can come from unexpected sources.

Have a great day, my friends,

-hugs-

Meeks

 


7 things I learned about the ATO

I’m going to start this post by sending my heartfelt thanks to the wonderful woman from the Bendigo Bank who went above-and-beyond to help me find deposit information – from an account that was closed a year ago! At the end of this post you’ll find a quick how-to about finding specific names on the statements available via online banking with the Bendigo. But first, I need to explain why my deposit information is so important. It starts with Newstart.

I went on Newstart back in 2013 and found a couple of casual tutoring positions in 2014. Like a good girl, I reported every cent I earned to Centrelink and did all the right things, except for one – apparently I should have lodged a tax return.

I should have lodged a tax return in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well.

Why didn’t I lodge tax returns for any of those years?

Because no one told me I had to, and I assumed that my earnings were well below the tax free threshold. As it turned out, they were [and are], but apparently I should have lodged a return anyway…

I rang the ATO, and after a two hour conversation, I learned 7 things:

  1. People who are on some kind of pension and don’t earn an outside income must lodge a ‘non-lodgement’ form for the relevant years.
  2. People who are on some kind of pension and do earn an outside income must lodge an actual tax return, no matter how little they earn.
  3. Individuals and Sole Traders [such as Indie authors and tradies] can lodge a tax return through a tax agent [$$$] or online at the ATO. Those are the only two options. I’ve already complained to the ATO in writing. Nothing will change and pensioners like me will continue to struggle because of the following:
  4. To lodge a tax return online, you must have the ATO linked to your MyGov account.
  5. You can link the ATO to your MyGov account via a Bank Account or a Centrelink payment summary but…the Bank Account has to be the same bank account you used the last time you lodged a tax return. For some of us that could be decades ago. As for the Centrelink payment summary, it only seems to work if you haven’t received any outside income – e.g. from casual work.
  6. The only option that worked for me was to ring up and ask for a linking code. Frankly, that was the only easy part of the entire two hour conversation.
  7. If your tax return is at all out of the ordinary – e.g. if you’re on an age pension and run a small business as a Sole Trader – and you can’t afford a tax agent – you’ll be told to go to Tax Help. Tax Help is basically a group of volunteers who can help you fill out the online forms. Maybe. Given that a paid employee of the ATO couldn’t help me, I can’t help feeling just a tiny bit sceptical.

Before I do anything else, however, I need to go back and find out how much I earned above and beyond the Newstart allowance for the years 2014 – 2019. This year is fine, but the information from the previous years must have been thrown out when I did one of my rare ‘clean ups’. That left me with 3 casual employers to worry about.

This is where the Bendigo Bank rode into my life on a white charger. As I was pulling my hair and wondering what to do, I remembered that all of my casual pay would have been paid into a bank account. Eureka! All I needed to do was go back through all that old information and I’d find how much I’d earned.

I was right, except for one thing. I’d nominated an unused ‘cheque account’ for my pay. When I reached retirement age last year, I decided to get rid of the cheque account as I never used it. Another disastrous clean out.

This led to my final phone call of the day – to the Bendigo Bank. The lady I spoke to was so nice, so understanding, so bloody patient she deserves a medal. She found the cancelled account and went through it, transaction by transaction, looking for the three employers I’d named. And she found them.

There are literally no words to describe my relief. Now I can give the ATO the exact information they need so I can avoid any possibility of becoming a ‘Robodebt’ victim. Anyone living in Australia knows the horror stories circulating about Robodebt victims. I was honestly terrified that I’d end up as one of them. And I owe it all to one, nice lady at the Bendigo Bank. So here’s that quick how-to I mentioned:

How to search online statements via the Bendigo Bank.

For starters, login to your Bendigo Bank account and click on the account you want to check.

Next, at the top of the account transactions you’ll see four options. The one on the far right is ‘Statements’.

Click Statements and specify the year or time period you’re interested in [card accounts allow you to go back for many years, easy saver accounts only go back 2 years].

Open the statement of your choice. It’ll open as a PDF document. To save yourself a lot of time and eye-strain, hover the mouse over www.bendigobank.com.au as shown below:

Now, press Ctrl f on your keyboard.

This will cause a ‘Find on page’ box to display at the top of the screen. Start typing the name of the company or person you’re looking for.

If it’s found, the statement will automatically move to the appropriate page and the item will be shown with a small highlight. If it’s not found, you’ll see a message to that effect next to the search box.

I hope you never have to go back over years of transactions, but if you do, this neat trick will make it a lot less painful.

Okay, my brain hurts. I’m going to go do something mindless now.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


How to save $$ in Victoria [Australia]

This post is for Victorians on a tight budget – i.e. people on Newstart, the Age Pension, Disability Pension or young people working in the GIG economy – and concerns energy bills such as gas and electricity.

The first, critical step to saving on your energy bills is to understand that utility companies bank on us being too busy to go out and actively look for better deals. The new initiative by the Victorian government only means that energy retailers have to inform you of their best deals. But those best deals could still be very expensive when compared to the rest of the marketplace.

To give you an example, I changed my gas supplier about a year and a half ago. At the time, my new gas supplier offered the best deal according to the Victorian government’s own comparison website:

https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au

This morning, when I did a fresh comparison, my existing gas supplier was close to the bottom of the list, and their best deal was over $400 more expensive [per year] than the new ‘best deal’. As a result, I got on the phone [contact details supplied by the government website], made sure the quote was still accurate and…signed up:

When AGL’s best is no longer the best, I’ll move my gas account again.

Gamers would recognize this as ‘churn’. The term refers to how gamers move from one ISP to another to get the best deal. I don’t ‘churn’ often, but since I became an age pensioner, I’ve learned that loyalty simply doesn’t pay. These days I ‘churn’ my gas, electricity and comms suppliers on a regular basis.

So what’s involved in comparing prices?

Once you land on the government’s comparison website, you’ll be asked a series of questions about how you use your gas [or electricity]. It pays to make your answers as accurate as possible so dig out your most recent bill and keep it handy. After you’ve completed all the relevant questions, the website will do some kind of general comparison and present you with a list of the best matches for your circumstances.

Gas pricing is a mess with about five different rates in both the ‘peak’ and ‘off peak’ categories, but don’t let it scare you. One easy thing to compare is the daily supply charge. Essentially this is the amount you pay for the privilege of having a gas connection. In other words, even if you don’t turn the gas on at all, you’ll still be charged that daily supply charge.

All retailers charge you for supply, but the amount varies. AGL’s daily supply charge is 62 cents. Another retailer I looked at [not one of the most expensive ones] was charging 83 cents. Assuming the rates don’t change for 365 days, that’s $226 vs $303 per year [or a saving of $77 per year].

When the cost of living means you have to think twice about buying that latte, a saving of $77 is nothing to be sneezed at. And when you add that small saving to the actual cost of using the energy, the savings really do add up.

So please, bookmark that government comparison website and check it out, at least once a year. Doing your homework and making a change will probably take an hour, all up, but the way I see it, I’ve just earned over $400 for that hour. Not a bad hourly rate, don’t you think?

And finally a word about keeping all your eggs in one basket. Energy retailers that supply both gas and electricity will try to convince you to move both utilities to them. Doing so may be more convenient. It may also be cheaper, sometimes. But…a cheap gas price does not automatically mean the electricity price will be the best available price as well.

Remember, the best price a retailer offers is not necessarily the best price from all retailers. Compare…and save.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 


The Marie Antoinette disorder [in politics]

low carb hazelnut cakeMarie Antoinette pirouetted in front of the mirror, admiring her milk-white neck, or perhaps the priceless diamonds that nestled there. She really should have asked for matching earrings…

A timid knock on the door interrupted the Queen’s weighty deliberations.

“Entrez!” she trilled, not at all pleased.

The door opened to reveal a haggard man in full court regalia. When he bowed, the light streaming in through the windows of the Petit Trianon lit up the bald spots on his head.

“Majesty!” he said.

“Lord High Chamberlain,” she replied. “Why are We being disturbed?”

“Deepest apologies, Majesty,” the Chamberlain replied, absently brushing another hank of hair from his shoulder. “A delegation has arrived to petition the Crown. It seems the people have no bread…”

“No bread?” the Queen said, her perfect forehead creased in a tiny frown. “Why then, let them eat cake!”

Marie Antoinette, born on 2 November 1755,  beheaded by guillotine on 16 October 1793.

* * *

There is no historical evidence that Marie Antoinette ever said those infamous words, however the willful blindness behind them could well have been true. Sadly, modern day ‘rulers’ seem to be afflicted by the same disorder.

I am, just at this moment, thinking of our estwhile Treasurer,  Joe Hockey. Apparently Joe Hockey is trying to float the idea of pushing the retirement age out to 70…perhaps to claw back some of the money Prime Minister Abbott wants to give extremely well off women in the form of paid maternity leave.

It goes without saying that women capable of earning $150,000 per annum are in desperate straits, and need all the help they can get. The same cannot be said for Baby Boomers, such as myself, who selfishly refuse to pop off, and will soon become a huge burden on the welfare system.

Mr Hockey’s brilliant plan is to make Boomers keep working until they hit 70, at which point they may, or may not get a pension.

Now, I have to say that I never planned on retiring, at least as a writer, but given how hard it is to find a job at 61,  I do wonder what jobs Mr Hockey has in mind. Bricklaying? Plumbing? Garbology? Or perhaps some of the high flying CEO’s will burn out at 40 and make way for us mature types?

Or perhaps Mr Hockey doesn’t really care that there are no jobs out there for us. I’m sure his number crunchers have already worked out that having Boomers on the dole NewStart Allowance, is preferable to having them on the Age Pension.

Let’s do the sums. A single Pensioner at the maximum rate gets $842.80 per fortnight, or $421.40 per week. An unemployed person on NewStart gets $508.00 per fortnight, or $254.00 per week. I’m no maths genius, but even I know that’s a saving of $167.40 per person per week. That is $8,704.80 per year. Now if the retirement age is raised from 67 to 70 [for men] and from 65 to 68 for women, the government will save $26,114.40 per Boomer during those 3 extra years of -cough- work -cough-.

Another benefit of pushing the retirement age out to 70 is that many of the poorest Boomers may well die of starvation,  freeze to death in winter or die of heatstroke in summer as they try to juggle the conflicting needs of buying food, or paying the utilities out of $254.oo per week.

Of course, not all Baby Boomers will be affected by the new retirement age. Those on big incomes and hefty superannuation payouts will be fine. They will be able to access their superannuation at 60, and use all those lovely dollars to replace their ageing Mercedes with a new Beemer, and still have enough left to last them till they reach 70. With luck, and judicious spending, they should then be eligible for the full pension because all of their superannuation will be gone.

So let’s take those Boomers out of the equation. Who have we got left? Hmm,  apparently there will still be quite a few Boomers with a disability [and no superannuation], unskilled manual workers [men and women] with very little superannuation, single parents [mostly women] with little to no superannuation, and divorced women with grown children who never managed to accrue any superannuation at all…

* * *

Tony Abbott is staring into the mirror, admiring his spandex when his deliberations are interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Enter!” he growls, not at all pleased.

The door opens to reveal a haggard man suffering from severe alopecia.

“What is it Joe?”

“Um, I got the budget into surplus, Tony, but there’s a delegation of Boomers outside, and they’re not happy. They say they can’t get a job…”

“No jobs?” the Prime Minister said, his forehead creased in a tiny frown. “Why then, let them have NewStart!”

* * *

I rest my case.

Meeks

p.s. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter!

 


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