Early access to your super

You can apply to access you super early if you're experiencing financial hardship or for compassionate reasons. Here's the eligibility criteria and how to apply.

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As a general rule, you usually can’t access your super until you reach your preservation age (between 55 and 60 years, depending on your date of birth) and meet a condition of release.

The most common conditions of release that allow you to access super benefits are:

  • Reaching your preservation age and retiring
  • Reaching your preservation age and starting a transition to retirement pension while continuing to work
  • Reaching 65 years of age (even if you have not retired)
  • Being aged 60 to 64 years and ceasing an employment arrangement
  • Passing away (in this case, your super death benefits will go to your nominated beneficiaries)

However, if you've fallen on particularly hard times financially, you might be able to access your super early without meeting one of the above conditions.

  • In 2020 the Australian Government allowed Australians to access some of their super if they had been financially impacted by Covid-19. However, this COVID-19 early access to super scheme has now ended.

When can I access my super early?

In certain limited circumstances it is possible to access your super savings early, including the following reasons:

Let’s examine each of the above conditions of release to find out when and how you can withdraw your super benefits early.

Compassionate grounds

You may be granted early access to your super on compassionate grounds if the Department of Human Services (DHS) is satisfied that your application meets the eligibility criteria. The amount you withdraw is paid and taxed in the same way as a normal super lump sum.

It’s also worth pointing out that the early release of super on compassionate grounds will only be granted to help you cover unpaid costs. If you’ve already paid those costs, even by using a loan or credit card, you won’t be able to access your super.

Compassionate grounds include:

Medical

If you need to pay for medical treatment for yourself or a dependant, or to travel to receive treatment. You or your dependant must have a life-threatening illness or injury, acute or chronic pain, or acute or chronic mental illness. You must also show that you can’t get treatment through the public health system (this is not required for travel to medical treatment) and that you can’t cover your costs any other way.

If you meet the necessary requirements, your super fund will release enough money to cover your reasonable medical costs. This amount will be determined based on quotes and invoices.

If you don’t have enough money in your super to cover those costs, you’ll need to show the DHS how you’ll pay for the rest.

Mortgage

If a lender threatens to sell your home because you have fallen behind on repayments, you may be able to get an early release of super to ensure that you don’t lose your home. You will only be eligible if:

  • It’s your main home
  • You’re legally responsible for the mortgage
  • You can’t make loan repayments any other way, for example, by selling other assets

The DHS will only let your super fund release enough money to stop the lender selling your home. The maximum amount you can receive from one super fund per year is:

  • Three months of repayments, and
  • 12 months of interest on the balance of the loan

If your super balance is insufficient to cover costs, you must either:

  • Reduce the arrears, or
  • Provide a letter from your lender confirming their willingness to accept the money available in your super to stop the sale of your home

Disability

If you or one of your dependants have a severe disability, you can apply to the DHS for early release of your super to modify your home or vehicle to suit your special needs, or to buy disability aids.

The modifications must be to your main home or a car you own, and you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that there’s no other way you can pay for those modifications. If your application is successful, the DHS will let your super fund release enough money to cover reasonable costs.

If you don’t have enough money in your super to cover those costs, you’ll need to show the DHS how you’ll pay for the rest.

Palliative care

If you need an early release of super to pay for your own palliative care, you can apply directly to your super fund. The fund can release the money when you have a terminal illness and you won’t pay any tax on this amount. The DHS can also approve the early release, but you’ll need to pay tax on the money you access.

You can also access an early release of super to pay for palliative care for a dependant who:

  • Has a terminal illness
  • Needs help paying for palliative care
  • Can’t pay any other way

If your application is successful, you can access enough of your super balance to cover reasonable costs.

Funeral

Early release of super may also be possible if you need to cover the cost of a dependent's funeral and you can’t pay in any other way. You’ll need to apply to the DHS to let your super fund release money to cover reasonable costs, which include things like the funeral service and headstone but do not extend to the wake.

Severe financial hardship

If you’ve received eligible government income support payments for a continuous period of 26 weeks and you can’t cover your immediate family living expenses, you can apply directly to your super fund for an early release of super.

Paid and taxed as a normal super lump sum, this early release allows you to access between $1,000 and $10,000. A maximum of one withdrawal is allowed in any 12-month period.

However, before applying for early access to super due to severe financial hardship, keep in mind that an early release may reduce your Centrelink payments such as the Family Tax Benefit, Child Care Benefit and income support.

Terminal medical condition

If you’ve been diagnosed as terminally ill, you can contact your super fund to request early access to your super. To qualify, you’ll need two medical practitioners to certify that you have less than 24 months to live, and one of those practitioners must specialise in an area related to your illness or injury.

Your super is paid as a lump sum and if withdrawn within 24 months of certification by the medical practitioners is not taxable.

Temporary incapacity

If you suffer from a physical or mental medical condition that leaves you temporarily unable to work, or only able to work reduced hours, you can apply to your super fund to receive your super in regular payments (an income stream) during that time.

In these circumstances, the payments you receive are taxed as a normal income stream.

Permanent incapacity

In situations where you are permanently incapacitated, you can apply to your super fund for early release of super. Often referred to as a “disability super benefit”, this amount can be paid as a lump sum or an income stream.

To qualify for early access, you’ll need to prove to your fund that you have a permanent physical or mental medical condition that will most likely prevent you from ever working again in a job for which you are suitably qualified. This must be certified by at least two medical practitioners in order for you to receive concessional tax treatment.

If you qualify for this payment, keep in mind that you almost certainly also qualify for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) insurance payment. If you hold TPD cover through your super fund, this may offer the financial support you need.

If your super balance is less than $200

If you change jobs and the balance of your super account is less than $200, you may be able to access your super. You’ll need to get in touch with your super fund to request access, and the good news is that no tax is payable if you access a super account with a balance of under $200.

If you’re a temporary resident leaving Australia for good

While you’re a temporary resident working in Australia, your employer is required by law to make super guarantee contributions for you. Once you return to your home country, you’ll be able to access your Australian super savings. This is called a Departing Australia Superannuation Payment (DASP).

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.

You can claim your DASP online here.

How to apply for early access to super

If you're applying for early access due to financial hardship, you can apply to your super fund directly. You may be required to show evidence that you're experiencing severe financial hardship, for example with proof of income support payments. Contact Services Australia (or your local Centrelink office) and request a letter confirming this, which you can show to your super fund.

If you're applying for early access on compassionate grounds, you can do this via your myGov account online. Once you're in your myGov portal, navigate to the ATO services and click on the 'Super' option. You should see a form where you can apply for access on compassionate grounds.

When you can't access your super early

You can't access your super early to help you fund day-to-day expenses, even if they're particularly large expenses. The reason for this is because superannuation needs to be for the sole purpose of benefitting you in retirement (not benefitting you right now).

You can't access your super early for things such as:

  • To pay for house renovations
  • To pay for a new car
  • To pay off a loan
  • To start a business
  • To buy investments outside of super
  • To pay for school fees
Promoted
Virgin Money Super LifeStage Tracker has one of the lowest fees in the market and has strong 3 year performance. It invests in a mix of assets in line with your age, reducing your risk as you near retirement. The investment team was named a Responsible Investment Leader 2020 and 2021 by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia.
Promoted
Green Company
Certified by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia.

This fund invests in renewable energy, innovative technology and sustainable products while avoiding coal, oil, tobacco and live animal exports.

Do you need to switch super funds?

Even if you can't access the money right now, it's important to make sure you're in a low-fee, high-performing super fund so you're not paying more than you need to in fees. Switching to a fund with lower fees could help you retire with a much larger balance later when you are able to access the money.

Name Product Last 1 year performance (p.a.) Last 3 year performance (p.a.) Last 5 year performance (p.a.) Last 10 year performance (p.a.) Fees on $50k balance (p.a.)

Virgin Money Super - LifeStage Tracker

Virgin Money Super - LifeStage Tracker
+22.17%
+10.04%
New Fund
New Fund
$363
Virgin Money Super LifeStage Tracker has one of the lowest fees in the market and has strong 3 year performance. It invests in a mix of assets in line with your age, reducing your risk as you near retirement. The investment team was named a Responsible Investment Leader 2020 and 2021 by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia.

Australian Ethical Super Balanced

Green Company
Australian Ethical Super Balanced
+17.96%
+10.33%
+9.67%
+9.01%
$622
Certified by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia.
Australian Ethical seeks to invest in companies that have a positive impact on the planet, people and animals, such as renewable energy and healthcare while avoiding investments in coal, oil, tobacco and gambling.

AustralianSuper - Pre-mixed, Balanced option

Finder Award
AustralianSuper - Pre-mixed, Balanced option
+20.46%
+9.6%
+10.46%
+9.74%
$476
AustralianSuper is an award-winning industry super fund and the largest super fund in Australia. The Balanced fund invests in a mix of different assets like shares, property and cash.

Sunsuper Lifecycle Balanced

Finder Award
Sunsuper Lifecycle Balanced
+20.62%
+8.77%
+9.84%
+9.06%
$558
Sunsuper is an award-winning super fund with more than 1.4 million members. Its Lifecycle Balanced option invests your super in a mix of growth assets, and reduces your risk when you're near retirement.

Spaceship GrowthX

Spaceship GrowthX
+23.41%
+15.25%
New Fund
New Fund
$536
This is a high-risk investment option that aims to deliver high returns over the long term.
Spaceship's GrowthX fund invests heavily in technology ETFs with high exposures to Australian and international shares. Performance figures and fees supplied by Spaceship, not Chant West.

QSuper Lifetime - Aspire 1

QSuper Lifetime - Aspire 1
+17.11%
+9.02%
+8.61%
New Fund
$360
QSuper is one of the largest profit-for-members funds in Australia. QSuper Lifetime continually adjusts your investment mix in line with your age and your super account balance.

UniSuper Balanced

UniSuper Balanced
+17.6%
+9.23%
+9.55%
+9.55%
$326
UniSuper is an industry super fund and one of Australia's largest super funds with more than 450,000 members. Its Balanced option invests in a mix of different asset classes and charges some of the lowest fees of all default super products.

Aware Super Growth

Aware Super Growth
+18.02%
+8.81%
+9.8%
+8.97%
$519
Aware Super is a not-for-profit fund with more than 750,000 members. The MySuper product invests your super in a pre-mixed Growth fund until you’re 60, then it’ll switch to Balanced.

HESTA Balanced Growth

HESTA Balanced Growth
+19.03%
+8.48%
+9.39%
+8.87%
$533
HESTA is an industry super fund for the health and community services sector and open to all Australians. The Balanced Growth fund invests in a mix of asset classes without taking on too much, or too little, risk.

Australian Catholic Super Lifetime - Grow

Australian Catholic Super Lifetime - Grow
+17.36%
+7.42%
New Fund
New Fund
$528
A Catholic super fund open to all Australians and designed for people working in Catholic education, healthcare or aged care.The Lifetime One fund option changes your investment mix as you get older.

Verve Super Balanced

Verve Super Balanced
+12.85%
New Fund
New Fund
New Fund
$691
Verve Super is an ethical super fund tailored for women. It seeks to invest in companies making a positive impact, such as renewable energy and women in leadership, while avoiding those that cause harm, such as fossil fuels, tobacco and guns.

Superhero Super Autopilot

Superhero Super Autopilot
+14.52%
+8.39%
New Fund
New Fund
$429
Superhero Super Autopilot allows you to invest up to 30% of your super in different themed ASX shares and ETFs, with at least 70% of your balance invested in the Vanguard Global Diversified Index Portfolio. Performance and fees are based on having 100% of your balance in the index portfolio.

REST Super - Core Strategy

REST Super - Core Strategy
+17.43%
+7.17%
+8.26%
+8.43%
$467
REST is an industry super fund tailored towards the retail sector and open to all Australians with almost 2 million members. The Core Strategy is a diversified investment portfolio that balances risk and return.

AustralianSuper - Socially Aware

AustralianSuper - Socially Aware
+19.4%
+7.89%
+9.25%
+9.2%
$501
The AustralianSuper Socially Aware option doesn't invest in Australian or international companies that directly own coal and fossil fuel reserves, produce tobacco or those which have single-gender boards. Investment performance as of 30 June 2020.

Aware Super - Diversified Socially Responsible Investment

Aware Super - Diversified Socially Responsible Investment
+15.23%
+8.1%
+8.28%
+8.12%
$406
The Aware Super Diversified Socially Responsible Investment is a pre-mixed investment option that excludes companies operating in the tobacco, ammunition, gambling, alcohol, forest logging and pornography industries, as well as companies that attribute 20% or more of their revenue to coal, oil and gas.

Sunsuper - Socially Conscious Balanced

Sunsuper - Socially Conscious Balanced
+19.6%
+8.76%
+8.83%
+8.25%
$463
Certified by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia.
The Sunsuper Socially Conscious Balanced option avoids investment in companies that have significant exposure (more than 5% of revenue) to alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography, coal and nuclear power manufacturing. Investment performance as of 30 June 2020.
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The information in the table is based on data provided by Chant West Pty Ltd (AFSL 255320) which is itself supplied by third parties. While such information is believed to be accurate, Chant West does not accept responsibility for any inaccuracy in such information. Chant West’s Financial Services Guide is available at https://www.chantwest.com.au/financial-services-guide . Finder offers no guarantees or warranties about the data and we recommend that users make their own enquiries before relying on this information. Performance, fees and insurance data is based on each fund's default MySuper product. Where the performance, fees and insurance data for the MySuper fund vary according to the member's age, results for individuals between 40-49 years of age have been shown. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

*Past performance data is for the period ending June 2021.

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