Generally, you can access your superannuation after you've reached your preservation age and you’re retired, but there are instances when you may be able to access super early.

Your super fund plays a big part in your retirement, so understanding how it works and when you can access your super can be very helpful in planning for your future.

Your super is designed to help fund your retirement, so generally it’s only possible to withdraw your super once you’ve reached a ‘preservation age’ and you’re permanently retired. However, there are some special cases where you may be able to withdraw your super savings early.

Here’s some helpful information about when and how super may be accessible to you.

What’s your preservation age?

Your ‘preservation age’ is the earliest age where it’s possible to tap into your super, and it’s calculated based on your date of birth. If you’re not sure about your preservation age, here is a table that can help:

Date of birth Preservation age
Before 1 July 1960 55
1 July 1960 – 30 June 1961 56
1 July 1961 – 30 June 1962 57
1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963 58
1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964 59
From 1 July 1964 60

Accessing your super during a transition to retirement (TTR)

If you’ve reached your preservation age but you’re not quite ready to permanently retire, you might wish to access a portion of your super through a transition to retirement pension (TTR).

A TTR involves drawing down on your super as a non-commutable retirement income stream (or account-based pension). As part of your retirement plan, a TTR can give you more financial flexibility and free up precious time, or can help you maintain your work hours while saving on tax.

Keep in mind that with a TTR it’s only possible to withdraw between 4% and 10% of your super savings every financial year.

Accessing your super at age 60, if you’ve stopped working (but aren’t retiring)

If you’re aged 60 to 64 and stop working (for any amount of time), you’re considered retired for the purposes of accessing your super. This is the case even if you have no intention of retiring completely.

This means you can cash out the super you’ve accumulated up until that time, even if you begin working again under a different employment arrangement or switch to a different company.

Accessing your super when you reach age 65

When you turn 65, you typically have full access to your super, regardless of whether you’re working or retiring. There aren’t any special conditions you’ll need to meet to get full access to your super, and you can also choose not to withdraw it and continue your contributions (but there could be certain tax benefits for withdrawing your super).

Are there cases where I can withdraw super early?

Generally speaking, superannuation rules state you can’t take your super until retirement (as outlined earlier), apart from the First Home Super Saver Scheme, which was introduced on 1 July 2017 to help eligible Australians save a deposit for their first home.

The Federal Government is also allowing people affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak to apply for early release of their superannuation. If you're eligible, you can access up to $10,000 of your super between 1 July and 31 December 2020.

There are other cases where legally accessing super early is possible, such as if you have severe financial hardship, or have certain medical conditions. In each instance, you’d need to meet the eligibility criteria.

Accessing super under compassionate grounds

Life can be unpredictable. Because of this, there are some instances where you may be allowed to withdraw a certain amount of money from your super on compassionate grounds if you don’t have capacity to meet certain expenses.

These can include:

  • medical-related expenses
  • funeral costs
  • mortgage repayments that will prevent you from losing your home.

Accessing super early because of severe financial hardship

If you’re under your preservation age, have been receiving financial support payments from the government for 26 consecutive weeks and can’t meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses, you can apply to withdraw between $1,000 and $10,000 from your super. This can only be done once in a 12-month period.

There are no cashing restrictions under severe financial hardship if you have reached your preservation age plus 39 weeks, received government income support payments for a cumulative period of 39 weeks and you were not gainfully employed on a full-time or part-time basis at the time of application.

Accessing super early due to incapacity

If you’re permanently or temporarily unable to work due to a physical or mental medical condition, you may be able to access super as a lump sum or via regular payments over a period of time.

Accessing super early due to a terminal medical condition

If you’ve been appropriately diagnosed with a terminal illness that’s likely to result in your death within a two-year period, you could apply for early access to your super. In this case, there are no set limits on the amount you can withdraw.

Withdrawing super from funds with benefits less than $200

If you switch employers and the balance of your super account is less than $200, you can apply to withdraw this amount. Likewise, if you have less than $200 of lost super, or less than $200 of super that’s being held by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), you may be able to withdraw this money.

How to withdraw super if you’re leaving Australia

If you’re a temporary resident in Australia and have worked and earned super on an eligible temporary visa, you can submit an application to withdraw your super once you leave the country, as long as your visa has expired. These applications are done as part of a Departing Australia Superannuation Payment (DASP), but the government requires you to meet specific criteria and provide documentation to withdraw super in this case.

How will accessing superannuation affect you?

While accessing superannuation is useful for retirement planning and in cases of financial or medical difficulty, it’s also worth considering how withdrawing super can affect your tax, and any Centrelink payments (such as the age pension).

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Important information

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