A 28-year-old lived on the age-pension for a week. Here's what happened.

You’re young, you don’t need to worry what your retirement will look like. That’s ‘Future Yous’ problem. Except … except there are things you can do now that will make a stratospheric difference to how much money you will have when you retire, because do you know what the maximum age pension is for retirement? $22, 805 a year for singles. That’s around $440 a week. Could you live off that?

We asked a 28-year-old to do exactly that. She’s not happy with us.

I very rarely think about my superannuation, every now and then I will check the balance and stare at it longingly, desperately wishing I could withdraw it to use for a house deposit. I think about getting old even less, at 28, retirement is literally the last thing on my mind. It wasn’t until I accepted the challenge to live on $440 a week that I even knew what pensioners were expected to live on. So, here’s how I went.

Weekly Expenses:

Rent – $233

Groceries -$100


I spend $100 on groceries and six hours cooking so that I would have all meals ready for this week. I realise that your average pensioner can’t afford to spend $100 a week when taking into account regular expenses. However I wanted to buy fresh meat, fruit and vegetables.

My mum used to work in aged care and would often tell us that her clients she saw on home visits lived off tinned soup. I am beginning to understand why!

Total spend: $100

"At 28 (Nicolle right), retirement is literally the last thing on my mind." (Image: Supplied)

Monday to Thursday

Considering I only have $103 to spare in this challenge, I spend nothing this entire week, luckily my Opal card was already topped up so I didn’t have to pay anything for transport. I eat my breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner. I have no choice.  For the most part it is okay, however I do longingly stare at my colleagues on Thursday when they head off to eat a delicious halloumi and chicken salad at my favourite lunch spot. However at $13 a pop, I can’t justify it.


Total spend : $0


Friday arrives and I am feeling confident that I will be able to keep within my $103 budget for the next two days. Until, I bite into my breakfast and to my (unfortunate) surprise, realise my filling has fallen out. So I rush to the dentist and spend a whopping $350.

Just like that I am way over my limit. Even if I hadn’t agreed to try and stick to $440 this week, I would still have been devastated. You can plan as much as you like, but life is full of expensive, unexpected, costly surprises.

I have a dinner planned that night and choose the cheapest thing on the menu without having to resort to the kiddy meals - a $25 moussaka and drink a $3 soda water with lime while everyone else around me sips on $14  (a glass) wine.

Total spend: $378

Financial planner Canna Campbell shares how you can save on your weekly grocery bill (post continues after audio).


I am lured to a rugby ‘ladies’ day by my sister-in-law who promises free champagne, cheese and a goody bag. This fits in perfectly well with my budget and I am more than happy to take her up on the offer. Turns out this year there is no drink sponsor, so I get there, spend $10 on lunch, $20 on a bottle of champagne and $25 in raffle tickets.

I couldn’t help myself, there were some really great prizes on offer and I’m sure I would have enjoyed them - had I won. The goody bag was full of promotional material and some pre-packaged quinoa. I pocket the quinoa, who am I to turn away free food when I am this desperate?

I proceed to go out afterwards, spend another $20 on drinks and $45 on an uber ride home.

It’s worth mentioning, that although I have completely failed by this point, spending $120 on a day/night out is actually pretty good for me and most people (millennials) I know. By this stage I am looking forward to Sunday (and my financial freedom), it has been a long, tough week.

Total Spend: $120

"$120 for a day/night out is pretty good!" (Image: iStock)

The results are in...

Weekly spend: $831

Over budget: $391

Had I not had my ‘tooth’ emergency, I would have only spent $41 more than I was entitled to. However, it also would mean that I wouldn’t have; a mobile phone, wifi, netflix, healthcare or a gym membership. With the cooler weather setting in I wouldn’t have been able to buy a new coat, or pair of boots - or anything really. $440 hardly pays for the essentials.

I have no idea how I would pay my electricity, or go to the doctor, or how I would have paid for my dentist appointment.

Nicolle with her two Nannas. (Image: Supplied)

This challenge was really eye opening - I realised, not just that I should take my (pensioner) Nannas out for lunch more, but that it is virtually impossible to live off $440 a week, it is also stressful. A week counting every penny, forward planning as much as I could, sacrificing nights out with friends or family. The week lacked fun. Surely everyone needs a little bit of fun.

And after working 50 years and paying taxes, our pensioners deserve more.

What do you think, could you live off $440 per week? And would you be able to lead the lifestyle you want?