Grey Nomads and the Age Pension

Retirement | | 2 min read

Mature woman in sportswear smiling

There’s something very alluring about exploring Australia in a campervan. A sense of adventure and freedom you won’t find elsewhere. From the mountains and the oceans to the great outback, it’s hard to appreciate the scale of the country until you see it from behind the wheels of a mobile home.

Plenty of Australians agree. The CIAA (Caravan Industry Association of Australia) says there are 800,000 registered RVs in Australia, and the amount of annual trips being taken surpass pre-COVID numbers. 

But what are the Age Pension implications of hitting the open road, and how does Centrelink assess your payments when you’re away from home? That something our financial planners can assist with, but you can get started with these general pointers.  

What is the assets and income test for the Age Pension?

Before we start talking travel, campervans, and Centrelink, it’s worth taking a moment to recap how the Age Pension is assessed.

In short, your assets and income will be used to determine if you qualify for a full or part Age Pension.

While the family home isn’t included in the asset test, the following items are:

  • investment properties

  • caravans, cars and boats

  • superannuation and account-based pensions. 

You can check the government's Services Australia website for the latest thresholds, and how assets can impact your pension payments. 

Any income you receive, whether from part-time work or investments, will also be looked at when assessing your Age Pension eligibility. Centrelink will use whichever cut-off point of the two tests – income or asset test – you reach first in determining your payments. 

The rules around income and the Age Pension can get quite technical, so you may want to consult a financial planner about your specific circumstances.

Travel, the Age Pension, and your primary place of residence 

Travelling around the country doesn’t generally impact your Age Pension eligibility. But there are a few things to be mindful of. Most importantly - maintaining your primary place of residence.

Assuming you own a home, it will continue to be classified as your primary place of residence (and exempt from the asset tests), even if you’re on the road.  

But there are limits. If you spend more than 12 months away from home, travelling, Centrelink may decide that your mobile home is your primary residence. This can have a significant impact on your asset test and your Age Pension payments.

In other words, your home may be reclassified and included in your asset test. This may see your payments reduced or even stopped. 

Rental income when you’re travelling

If you’re going on the road for an extended period of time, you can potentially sub-let your home. This can provide additional income, means someone is there to look after the place and make sure the plants are watered. 

This scenario will be unique to each person, so it’s best to speak with your accountant or financial planner to understand how any additional income may impact your overall financial position, and any Age Pension payments.  

Rental assistance income and travel 

If you don’t own a home the rules are a little different, and you may qualify for rental assistance, even if your main residence is a caravan, relocatable home, or a boat (eligibilty rules applies). 

There’s a minimum amount of rent you need to pay in order to receive rent assistance. But Centrelink doesn’t differentiate between renting a house or apartment vs site rental fees while you travel. 

Government benefits and campervans 

Australia’s grey nomads are on the move. NRMA reports that in the last decade we’ve seen a 90% increase in the number of retirees spending part of the year travelling around the country. 

If you receive a full or part Age Pension and decide to travel around Australia, your payments shouldn’t be impacted. But there are a number of things to keep in mind, mostly related to the family home and any income you might receive from sub-letting it.

So, if you’re new to the grey nomad lifestyle, or just want to try it out, consider short trips and rented vehicles. If you are planning a more permanent life on the road, make sure you speak with your accountant or financial planner to avoid an unpleasant surprise from Centrelink and the tax office.  

Issued by Togethr Trustees Pty Ltd ABN 64 006 964 049, AFSL 246383 ("Togethr"), the trustee of the Equipsuper Superannuation Fund ABN 33 813 823 017 ("the Fund"). The information contained herein is general information only and does not take into account your personal financial situation or needs. You should consider whether this information is appropriate to your personal circumstances before acting on it and, if necessary, you should also seek professional financial advice tailored to your personal circumstances. Where tax information is included, you should consider obtaining personal taxation advice. Before making a decision to invest in the Equipsuper Superannuation Fund, you should read the appropriate Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Target Market Determination for the product which are available at  Financial advice services may be provided to members by the trustee’s related entity Togethr Financial Planning Pty Ltd (ABN 84 124 491 078; AFSL 455010). *Past performance is not an indication of future performance.