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Accessing super in tough times

Can I access my super early?

Although superannuation is designed to be preserved until retirement, there are some very specific circumstances where you can legally access your superannuation savings early.

Should I withdraw my super early?

Withdrawing some of your super early is a big financial decision that you shouldn’t make lightly. It could leave you with less money for your retirement and impact your insurance within super. So before applying, stop and think about the potential consequences of accessing your superannuation early.

You could retire with less money – ASFA estimates that a person aged 30 who withdraws $20,000 from their superannuation now would have around $60,000 less when they reach retirement. This is a conservative estimate and you may actually lose more or less than this depending on your personal circumstances, such as your age, how many years left until you retire, and the level of your ongoing super contributions.

Your insurance may be cancelled – If you have insurance in your super account, you may lose it after making an early withdrawal if the balance becomes too low or if the withdrawal leads to the closure of your account.

If you’re unsure about the implications of accessing your super early, you should contact your superannuation fund or seek professional financial advice.

Compassionate grounds

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is responsible for the administration of early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds. Compassionate grounds include expenses resulting from:

  • Medical treatment
  • Medical transport
  • Mortgage assistance
  • Modifications to your home and/or motor vehicle needed due to a severe disability
  • Funeral assistance
  • Care for terminal medical condition

For more information on the above circumstances, visit the ATO website.

If you’re thinking about making an application, make sure you check with your super fund or Retirement Savings Account (RSA) provider first to make sure they will actually be able to take action on any release approval issued by the ATO. Even though you may meet a condition of release determined by the ATO, the release of your super savings continues to be subject to the governing rules of the fund you’re in.

Financial hardship

Early release of superannuation on the grounds of severe financial hardship is administered by your super fund or RSA. You may be eligible if you’ve been receiving a Commonwealth income support payment from Centrelink, and can prove you are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses. The maximum amount that can be released to you in any 12 month period is $10,000. Different criteria apply to those aged over 55 and 39 weeks. For more information, contact your super fund.

Terminal illness or permanent incapacity

Early release of superannuation on the grounds of terminal illness or permanent incapacity is administered by your super fund or RSA. If you meet certain conditions and are able to provide proof of your condition, you may be able to have your super released prior to retirement. Contact your super fund for more information or to make an application.

Leaving Australia

You may also be eligible to access your super before retirement if you are leaving Australia permanently. If you are an overseas resident working temporarily in Australia, you may be paid your superannuation money once you have left Australia through what is known as a departing Australia superannuation payment (DASP). For more information or to apply, visit the ATO website.