‘I make financial decisions month-by-month on the pension’

Jun 25, 2018
This is what life can be like on a pension. Source: Shutterstock

You work, you save and you do all you can through 46 years (in my case) to ensure you are comfortable and you’re able to enjoy some of the pleasures you put off until your later years. Sadly, though, it doesn’t always work out as planned.

My wife became ill with severe complications following a stroke in February 2001, just one month and one day into the new millennium. I nursed her at home for 10.5 of her last 12 years (I wouldn’t have had it any other way) but, now no longer working, drew down on savings and super to maintain her needs and her comfort. There is a huge difference between what the government thinks is sufficient and the reality of caring.

After my wife’s death, no longer comfortable living in our home, I sold it and made the decision to travel, to do the big circumnavigation that we’d always planned. In the event, that proved to be something I never came to terms with on my own, so I headed back home.

Going back a few years, we made the decision to act as guarantors for a dearly loved young relative who’d battled all sorts of adversity including a difficult marriage. Without hesitation, we agreed to ensure a good quality roof over her head and those of her three children, but that was a chicken that came home to roost in a big way. The mortgage went belly up and about 18 months ago I ended up paying out more than $400,000 in principal, interest and impressive legal costs (well, they were to someone).

Including the sale of my beloved car that used to take me to all sorts of outlandish places in amazing comfort, I managed to make restitution to the Big Four bank (which made a $6 billion-plus profit that year). I now have a small rental unit, a six-year-old Holden Berlina with 120,000km on the clock and about $2,000 in the bank (give or take, dependent on bills).

Life is now a matter of making financial decisions on a month-by-month basis. Unexpected accounts are difficult but not impossible, and everything that is not necessary is pared back to a minimum. Budgeting is essential but not that difficult (says he, after a long time in successful business.) Having volunteered many years with a charitable organisation, I’ve budgeted for many others; people who’ve not the faintest idea how to control expenditure against income.

Guess what? Although I’m doing now what I’ve preached to others, I’m far from despondent. With so many of my commitments — car insurance, home contents insurance, electric power, and others — on an averaged monthly direct debit arrangement, I can avoid most bill shock.

It isn’t what I want of life. However, a born-again cock-eyed optimist (the very best of all religions), it’s what I’ve got and what I’m going to make the most of. With a lot of care and the generous-to-a-fault help of Mr Morrison, I’m about $108 better off than I was on January 1. Wow!

No whinge, no poor bugger me, just the facts of life — and not just mine but many others through the country. I consider myself fortunate compared to many. At 78, I may not have all I’d otherwise want, but I’m comfortable, I have a roof over my head, and I eat good meals. Oh, and I still have a good camera!

Are you living on the age pension? What are your greatest financial challenges now you’re in your 60s?

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