Woman, 65, says it’s wrong she gets less NZ Super for being married

A married woman in Christchurch says it’s ‘ridiculous’ that she receives less New Zealand pension than a single person living with another adult.

A married person receives a pension of $817.32 per fortnight, before tax, compared to $990.20 for someone who shares with someone who is not their spouse or partner.

“I have a friend who is not in a relationship, but she shares a house, and they split all the expenses, and she’s going to end up making $172.88 more than me a fortnight, which is just plain wrong. said Daphne, who didn’t want her last name used for privacy reasons.

The combined fortnightly payment for a couple is $1634.64.

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The Department of Social Development said people in couples were more likely to share a wider range of costs and resources than a single person living with another adult.

Daphne said marital status shouldn’t come into the equation.

“The thing is, everyone keeps saying, be financially independent as a woman, then you become financially independent and, boy, are you a couple again,” she said.

New Zealand first introduced a state pension in 1898 at age 65 for the poor. Just over 120 years later the retirement age is 65 and NZ Super is for everyone.

She said the rules did not reflect modern society in which many types of households shared costs.

Her husband was not yet eligible for the NZ Super which did not change the amount she was receiving, but Daphne said it was even more unfair to get a lower payment when her husband was not receiving the pension .

“It’s just ridiculous,” she said.

She said she was never financially supported by a husband, owned her own property, earned her own income and paid the same tax as a single person, but said she was penalized at age 65 for choosing to be in a marriage. relationship.

“It’s common sense to go there whether you’re single or sharing for your Super New Zealand, period.”

Susan St John, director of the Retirement Policy and Research Center at the University of Auckland, said the policy was based on outdated ideas about relationships.

“It is very difficult to see how two single people living together have higher costs than a couple who may or may not be sharing a room. It’s not something you can assume goes with marriage or a relationship,” she said.

“So when you look at it in light of the changing way people live their lives, sometimes people in relationships don’t even live in the same house, it just seems like we need to update our ideas. “

The recent cost of living payment was paid to individuals regardless of their relationship status, but the winter energy payment was another example of people receiving less if they were in a relationship.

A single person with no dependent children receives a Winter Energy Payment of $20.46 per week, while a couple receives $31.82 per week, paid to one person in the couple, whether or not they live together.

This was not consistent with the idea of ​​individual treatment, nor was it consistently applied to all government payments, she said.

“If you receive an ACC payment, you do not receive less because you are married.

“You don’t pay more taxes because you’re married, assuming you can somehow afford it because it’s better to be married.”

St John had previously suggested aligning the rates, freezing the single split rate and letting the married rate catch up through wage indexation.

Many of the same issues arose regarding relationships and benefits, and the same unfairness resulted, she said.

The government has made some changes to the welfare system on an individual basis, such as increasing benefits per adult instead of per beneficiary unit, but more changes are needed.

Graham Allpress, director of customer service delivery for the Department of Social Development, said couples were more likely than singles to share resources such as a house, food, car, insurance, bedroom, savings, outlets and furniture.

People sharing accommodation were likely to share some costs and resources, such as furniture and essential household expenses, which would mean their costs would be lower, he said.

This was reflected in a single person in shared accommodation receiving a lower rate of NZ Super than a single person living alone.

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