Taking Out Your Superannuation Early

When can you access your superannuation early?

Under normal Australian superannuation rules, you can’t access your super savings until you meet the age requirements. The only other way you can get at your superannuation savings is by meeting a “condition of release”.

This guide briefly explains the age requirements, and every possible superannuation condition of release in Australia.

If you don’t qualify for any of the early release conditions on this page, you probably don’t qualify for any at all.

Note that early release of super is a drastic step, and shouldn’t be done lightly. The information on this page is simply to help you understand the options, and is not a substitute for financial advice.

The superannuation age requirements

Once you’re 65 years old you can access your superannuation fund, either as one big lump sum or a regular income stream.

To access it sooner, you can use your preservation age instead. However, doing this comes with some conditions.

You must either:
  • Be retired, and no longer working. This lets you get the funds as either a lump sum or an income stream.
  • Use a “transition to retirement stream” option, if you haven’t retired yet. This lets you receive up to 10% of the total amount saved, while you keep working.

Your preservation age will be from 55 to 60, depending on when you were born.

Your date of birthYour preservation age
Before 1 July 196055
1 July 1960 – 30 June 196156
1 July 1961 – 30 June 196257
1 July 1962 – 30 June 196358
1 July 1963 – 30 June 196459
On 1 July 1964, or later60

What are the conditions of release?

There are several possible conditions of release. Some are obvious:

  • Death: Superannuation savings are released when a person dies.
  • Temporary residents leaving Australia: Temporary residents who worked in Australia can get their super savings after leaving the country. This is called a Departing Australia Superannuation Payment (DASP).
  • Super less than $200: When you change jobs, or switch super funds, your savings are usually transferred across. However, if there’s less than $200 you may be able to get it paid directly to you.

There are two different ways this can go:

  • If the deceased named a beneficiary, the super fund might give the money to that person.
  • If the super fund does not give the money to a nominated beneficiary, it might choose to release the funds to someone else, such as the next of kin, or the deceased’s legal representative.

You may claim your DASP if:

  • You accumulated superannuation while working in Australia on a temporary resident visa (except subclass 405 and 410).
  • Your visa is no longer valid, for example it has expired or been cancelled.
  • You have already left Australia.
  • You are not an Australian or New Zealand citizen, or permanent resident of Australia.

Claim your DASP online here.

If you have a superannuation fund with less than $200 in it, you may simply be able to cash it out, subject to the rules of the fund.

You can do this by contacting the super fund that’s holding the money.

Some funds won’t let you do this, and will only let you transfer the money to another superannuation account.

Other conditions of release are more difficult. You might be able to access your superannuation early in the event of:

  • Compassionate grounds: Such as if you need to pay for a child’s medical treatment, have a terminal illness, desperately need to make a mortgage payment, or other situations.
  • Severe financial hardship: If you can’t meet necessary living expenses.
  • Temporary incapacity: If you’re temporarily unable to work at all, or can’t work as many hours.
  • Permanent incapacity: If you’re permanently disabled and unlikely to ever be gainfully employed again.

Early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds

There are five different compassionate grounds:

  • Mortgage. You’ll lose the house if you can’t make a repayment.
  • Medical. You need money to pay for treatment, or travel to receive treatment.
  • Disability. You need the money to buy disability aids, or modify your home or car to accommodate a severe disability.
  • Palliative care. Someone’s terminally ill.
  • Funeral. You need the money for a funeral.

You may be able to get super funds released early to pay for yourself, or a dependent partner or child. For example, if you need to modify a car because you are disabled, or because your child is disabled.

How to apply

All requests on compassionate grounds are handled by the Australian Government Department of Human Services (DHS). It’s the agency that will be reviewing applications and releasing funds.

In all cases, it will only release the amount you need, and in all cases you need to prove that you are not reasonably able to pay for it in any other way, such as selling off assets.

You can only claim early release of super to pay for your own mortgage. You can’t claim on behalf of a dependent.

Early release of super should be considered a last resort. The conditions to meet are:

  1. The lender must threaten to sell your home if you miss a repayment.
  2. It must be your only home, and not a second residence or investment property.
  3. You cannot reasonably pay in any other way, including using other savings or selling off assets.

The DHS will release only what the lender requires in order to prevent your home from being sold.

This is available for your own medical treatment, a dependent’s medical treatment, or to cover the cost of necessary travel for the purposes of receiving treatment.

You or the dependent must have:

  1. A life threatening injury or illness
  2. Acute or chronic pain
  3. Acute or chronic mental illness

If you are disabled, there are several ways you might be able to get an early release of super funds. This is one of the more specific and difficult ones.

It may be available whether it’s you or a dependent who is disabled.

The DHS might release super funds early so you can pay for:

  • Disability aids
  • Modifications to your home or car

You must own the car, but don’t necessarily have to own the house. However, your landlord will have to agree to the modifications in writing where applicable.

If you have a terminal illness, there are two different ways of getting an early release of super funds.

In both cases you will need to provide medical evidence from at least two different doctors, one of whom is a relevant specialist, saying that you probably have less than 24 months to live.

  • Apply to the super fund. It can release your superannuation savings to you. No tax is payable on this amount.
  • Apply to the DHS: It can authorise the early release of your superannuation savings. However, this will be taxable. In this situation, you want to go to your super fund first.

You can also apply for dependents, if your partner, child or other dependent has a terminal illness and needs help paying for palliative care.

You may be able to get early release of super to pay for a partner, child or other dependent’s funeral.

This is only to cover costs like a funeral service, and headstone. It does not include other things like a wake. The DHS may release enough to cover reasonable costs, based on quotes and invoices provided.

You’ll need to take different steps depending on what compassionate grounds you’re claiming, and whether it’s for yourself or a dependent.

A dependent can be a partner, a child or someone else.

  • Partner. The person you’re married to, or a de-facto partner that you live with.
  • Child. Your biological child, an adopted child or your stepchild.
  • Someone else you live with. Another person you are living with who is not a partner. The two of you need to have a relationship that includes financial support and domestic support.

You will need to prove your relationship to the person you are claiming as a dependent.

  • Partner. Either a marriage certificate, or a document that shows you live together as partners, such as a joint bank statement or a household bill.
  • Child. A birth certificate showing you as a parent, or other document such as an adoption certificate which shows that you are the guardian.
  • Someone else you live with: Documents which show you live together, and a statutory declaration that describes the nature of your relationship.

You can still claim for someone who is not living with you right now, for example, the person is temporarily working in another state or country, or away from home getting care for a disability.

Early release of superannuation for severe financial hardship

You may apply for early release of superannuation in the event of severe financial hardship. This is when you are unable to pay reasonable and immediate family living costs, such as groceries, or rent.

You cannot withdraw more than $10,000 at once for this reason, or less than $1,000 unless your total superannuation balance is under that. You can only make this kind of withdrawal once in a 12-month period.

You must have been receiving income support payments from the Department of Human Services (DHS) for a period of time, although there are slightly different requirements depending on whether you’re over or under the preservation age.

  • If you are under the preservation age. You must have been receiving DHS income support payments for at least 26 weeks in a row.
  • If you are over the preservation age. You must have been receiving DHS income support payments for at least 39 weeks in total since you reached the preservation age.

You cannot apply for early release of super if you are receiving funds as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian (ABSTUDY), student support under Austudy or Youth Allowance payments.

How to apply

If you meet the requirements, contact the DHS for confirmation of your situation, and evidence that you have been receiving income support payments, and then contact your super fund.

Early release of superannuation for temporary incapacity

If you are temporarily unable to work, or need to work reduced hours because of a physical or mental condition, you may request early release of super from your superannuation fund.

In this case, the funds will only be available as an income stream during the period you are unable to work at full capacity.

How to apply

Contact your super fund. The trustee will need to be satisfied that you are genuinely disabled.

Early release of superannuation for permanent disability

If you become permanently disabled you may request early release of super. This is sometimes known as a “disability super benefit”.

In order to receive this, the super fund trustee must agree that you are permanently disabled. This is when doctors agree that it is unlikely you will ever be able to work again, in a job that you are qualified to do by education, training or experience.

You can receive the benefits as either an income stream, or a lump sum.

If you qualify for this payment, you almost certainly also qualify for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) insurance payment where applicable. Your superannuation fund might also have built-in TPD insurance which can help supplement the payout.

How to apply

Contact your super fund. The trustee will need to be satisfied that you are genuinely disabled.

What else you should know

Generally, early release of super should be used as a last resort only. Early release of super can have:

  • Tax implications. In most cases, your superannuation will count as taxable income, even when paid out early.
  • Other payment implications. Early release of super might leave you with more child support to pay or less to receive, or lower Centrelink payments from the DHS.

Can I get early superannuation release with a self-managed super fund (SMSF)?

No. An SMSF trustee is also obligated to follow the superannuation and early release laws.

One common super scam involves telling people that they can get their superannuation early by moving it to an SMSF. Generally this is a scam, and victims will lose much of their savings. In addition, it may also be illegal and additional penalties can apply.

Can I get early release of superannuation for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF)?

It may be possible to qualify for early release of superannuation on compassionate medical grounds in order to pay for IVF. and some companies may offer their services as “facilitators”.

This will often involve psychiatric appointments. The purpose of these psychiatric appointments is so that the company’s doctors can then tell the DHS that they’ve examined you, and that IVF is necessary for alleviating a chronic or acute mental illness, which is a condition of early release for compassionate medical reasons.

Before you do this, remember that:

  • Their services are not free. You may be paying a substantial additional cost on top of the cost of all the expense of IVF.
  • The early-released superannuation is taxable, which further reduces the amount actually paid to you.
  • You are spending your retirement savings.

When you use these services, you’ll generally lose a lot of money from your super fund, and only getting a small amount of it to use.

If you are legitimately able to access early release of super funds, you will generally be able to do it yourself without paying for services such as these.

What should I do first if I want to apply for early release of super?

The DHS recommends talking to an independent financial advisor before you apply for early release of super.

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