Money Management
 
If you are a working carer you are likely to be on a lower than average income, yet you may have high living expenses because of caring.
 
As a result, you may experience long-term financial disadvantage. This fact sheet contains advice on managing money and information on financial assistance available to help with the costs of caring. Parts of this fact sheet have been adapted from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing Fact Sheet, Managing Money, available in their Carer Support Kit.
 
Dealing with the pressures of work and care
 
Caring can sometimes be so overwhelming and finding people to look after the person you are caring for so difficult that you may feel a lot of pressure in relation to your work commitments. You might feel you need to reduce the number of hours you work or give up work altogether to continue caring. Giving up work can have a serious impact on your long term financial situation.

Before you reduce your hours or leave work, consider these options:

  • Find out about your rights to flexibility at work
  • Talk to your employer about your situation and see if you can come to an arrangement so you can keep your job and still provide care
  • Talk to family and friends, and see if they can help out while you are at work
Using Available Services

Many working carers do not use Government funded services and assistance programs because they are too busy working and caring to ask for help and do not know where to go, or are put off by the procedures. Sometimes carers do not want strangers involved with the people they are caring for, and sometimes they have had bad experiences of outside assistance.


Part of managing money is to make the most of available services and programs. If you do not, you and the person you care for could miss out on money specifically allocated by government and community organisations to help make it possible for you to continue to earn a living. Service staff can usually address any concerns you may have about outside assistance. You also have the right to complain if the services provided are not of high quality.

It is worth the time to find out what your entitlements are and to use them, as they can help ease the pressure of caring while working.

Visit our Services Directory to find support services in your area.

Applying for the Carer Allowance

If you provide daily care for another person, you could be entitled to the Carer Allowance, payable through Centrelink. Eligibility depends on an assessment of care needs by a doctor or health practitioner.

As with services and assistance programs, many carers do not apply for a Carer Allowance because they do not know where to start or are put off by the application process. Do not feel embarrassed about applying for the Carer Allowance or other benefits or payments. You are entitled to financial assistance and if you do not take it up, you could lose out on money specifically allocated by government for helping you.

It is worth persevering to get your entitlements. The Carer Allowance is a small income supplement - $123.50 per fortnight - but there is no income or asset test for it and it is tax free. While this is a small payment now, it has been increasing since it began. In recent years the Federal Government made one-off payments of $600 to people receiving the Carer Allowance.

Budgeting

A budget or cash flow chart can help give you control over your finances and help you to manage your money.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have a workable budget?
  • Are my files and accounts organised?
  • Are my insurance policies up to date?
  • Do I have superannuation?
  • Do I need help managing my credit?
For a simple budget, make a list of all your regular sources of income such as wages and Carer Allowance, and when they are paid. Use our cash flow chart, a simple Excel spreadsheet available in our collection of Fact Sheets, to list them month by month over a year. You can type them over the numbers we have put in as examples. Add up each month's income - and if you use the Excel spreadsheet, the software will automatically add it up for you. Next, make a list of all your expenses and when they fall due over a year. Check previous bills and work out when you can expect them and approximately how much they will be. Allow for items such as haircuts, shoes and unpredictable expenses such as medical and vet bills as well as rent, mortgage, and household expenses. This information can take a little time to gather together but is worth it.
 
Add up all your expenses for the first month - or let the Excel spreadsheet software do it for you. The software will automatically subtract your expenses from your income and hopefully you will have some money left over. If you want to bank some, enter this amount in the space provided. After this, the software will then carry forward the leftover amount for the next month. Continue the process for each month.
 
If your expenses are greater than your income you will either need to increase your income or cut back on your expenses. Try getting extensions on your bills or asking for invoices rather than paying bills straight away. If your income is greater then your expenses, you will know you can put some away in savings or have extra to spend. If you do a cash flow chart for a whole year, you can get a good picture of your financial situation and take action to avoid getting into debt.
 
Seeking Financial Advice

If you feel you need extra assistance you can seek help from an expert. Get professional advice if you are:
  • Getting into debt
  • Unsure what to do about any financial matter
  • Planning to reduce your hours or leave work to become a full-time carer
  • Planning to set up a trust or company for the person you care for
  • Considering paying an accommodation bond
  • Needing advice on how to help the person you are caring for manage their money.
You can get help from:

  • Your bank
  • Your union or trade association
  • Your local council or family service
  • A financial adviser
  • A solicitor
  • A Centrelink Social Worker 13 27 17
  • Centrelink's Financial Information Service 13 23 00
  • Consumer Credit and Debt Hotline 1800 007 007
  • Australian Tax Office (ATO) Helpline 13 28 65

Seeking legal advice

Legal matters can have an impact on your finances. Check these questions:

Do I have an up-to-date Will, Power of Attorney and Enduring Power of Attorney?
Does the person I care for have an up-to-date Will, Power of Attorney and Enduring Power of Attorney?
Is my relationship with the person I care for legally recognised?

For more information see our fact sheet Planning for your Future.

You can get information and assistance on these matters from:

  • Your nearest community legal centre by checking the White Pages in your telephone book, or by calling the Combined Community Legal Centres Group on 02 9212 7333 or visit www.nswclc.org.au
  • A legal aid office by checking the White Pages, calling the Legal Aid Commission of NSW on 1300 888 529 or visit  www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au
  • A solicitor
  • The Guardianship Board or Tribunal in your state 
  • A Law Society or Institute.
What if I do have to give up work?

Seek financial advice first. You may be eligible for the Carer Payment, a pension paid by Centrelink to people who are caring for a person who needs full-time care and attention. This payment is income and assets tested and eligibility is dependent on an assessment of care needs.
 
You may also be eligible for the Age Pension if you are aged 65 or over, or the Disability Support Pension if you are unable to work at least 15 hours per week within two years because of a disability or illness. Contact Centrelink to find out more on 13 27 17.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) provides some financial assistance to veterans, war widows and widowers, their families and carers. You can contact DVA and Veterans Affairs Network on 1300 555 727.

For more information

For more information, see the other Working Carers Support Gateway Fact Sheets on Your Rights At Work, Carer Allowance (child), Centrelink Carer Allowance (adult), Legal Matters, Respite Care and Home and community care services and Aged Care Programs.

For a comprehensive list of benefits and entitlements for carers, check the Carers NSW Fact Sheet Benefits and Entitlements.
 
For an information on the importance of managing money and the available financial assistance for carers check AustralianSecurities and Investment Commission Managing your Money.