Retirement dream at risk from Labor policy

The Australian

18 February 2019

Luke Griffiths – Journalist

Veterinary surgeon Derek Wells laments that his retirement plans have been thrown into disarray because of Labor’s proposed crackdown on franking credits for self- funded retirees.

Mr Wells planned to retire this year so he and wife Lyn, also a vet but now retired, could indulge themselves a little after 40-plus years of hard work.

Instead, the couple are gripped by anger and anxiety.

“I wanted to retire but I just cannot because we’re going to lose income and, with that, lifestyle and choices,” Mr Wells said at the couple’s home in the Adelaide Hills town of Echunga, 35km southeast of Adelaide.

The couple have cut their expenditure wherever possible in anticipation of a Labor government that they said would slash up to $20,000 — or one third — of their annual retirement income because of its plan to abolish a scheme that delivers cash payments for excess franking credits which was introduced by the Howard government.

They hope, but are not confident, the Senate will block Labor’s proposed measures, which they liken to elder financial abuse.

“We’re sitting down and working out what we can afford, trying to change electricity providers because we’re in South Australia and the prices are horrendous,” Mrs Wells said. “We’re trying to cut back on insurance … at the moment it’s a nip-tuck here, a nip-tuck there, because it’s a lot of extra money to find.

“The anxiety is something that every day we speak about because we’ve been waiting to do some things for 40 years and with the stroke of a pen, or a vote, the rules will suddenly change.”

The couple, who said they were not affiliated with any political party, have been self- employed most of their lives and have managed their own superannuation for more than two decades.

They are proud they’ve never had to rely on government handouts, yet Mr Wells, 63, dismissed the notion that all self-funded retirees were wealthy.

He said he and his wife were hardworking, middle-class Australians who followed expert advice and invested in companies that paid fully franked dividends.

“This is abuse of older people by Labor, coming up with a system to make it really hard for them … taking away any ‘cream’ they may have, making it harder for them to live. It’s just crazy,” Mr Wells said.

“This is not something society should be doing. It should be looking after older people, not picking on them. You try to have some pleasure in retirement and they’re taking away all that because you just won’t have the money for the things you want to do.”

Mrs Wells, 62, said Labor had framed its argument in simple terms — “really good one-liners” — that suggested those affected had done something wrong.

Mrs Wells said she was also angry with the Liberals after then treasurer Scott Morrison tinkered with superannuation in the 2016 budget. “Unfortunately, superannuation has become the government of the day’s honey pot.”