When can I access my super?
The age you're eligible to access your super depends on which year you were born, with the earliest being 55 years old. Here's when (and how) you can access your super.
What is superannuation?
Superannuation is a fundamental part of the Australian retirement plan, offering workers the opportunity to save for the future with each paycheck. While most people are aware that superannuation is designed for retirement, questions often arise about when the funds become accessible.
Superannuation savings grow over your working life, thanks to regular contributions. While you can contribute extra funds, withdrawing from your superannuation account is subject to specific criteria known as "conditions of release." These rules, defined by superannuation laws, might vary slightly based on your super fund. It's important to understand these conditions to know when you can access your funds.
When can I access my super?
In general, you can access your super when you meet a condition of release.
- Condition 1: You've reached your preservation age (more on this below) and retired
- Condition 2: You've reached your preservation age and changed your employment in order to start a transition to retirement pension
- Conditions 3: You've turned 65
Note that you only need to meet one of these conditions, not all, to be able to access your super.
What is preservation age?
Your preservation age is the age at which you can access super if you have retired. Your preservation age is calculated based on when you were born, as outlined in the table below:
|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|
Is preservation age the same as pension age?
No, preservation age differs from pension age. Preservation age is when you can access your superannuation upon retirement or when transitioning to a retirement pension account. In contrast, the age pension is a government payment designed to provide income to eligible Australians who may not have sufficient means, like superannuation, to retire comfortably. The pension age is being gradually increased from 65 to 67 years, depending on your birth year.
What are the conditions for the release of my super?
Now that these terms are clear, let's explore these conditions and delve into additional circumstances that may permit early access to superannuation.
Accessing your super at your preservation age
So if you were born after 1964, you'll need to wait until you're 60 and also retired to access your super. Note that if you pan to retire and access your super at this age, your intention to retire must be genuine and your super fund will likely get you to sign a declaration on this.
Starting a transition to retirement pension
If you've reached your preservation age and want to start accessing your super without having to retire, you can start a transition to retirement pension instead.
This involves speaking with your super fund and transferring some of your balance into an account-based pension that you can access. The rest of your balance stays in your super fund.
This allows you to continue to work, or reduce your hours and work part time, while starting to access some of your super as a way of easing into retirement. While this can be a useful way to supplement your income, keep in mind that the sooner you start accessing the sooner it will be gone. See if you've got enough money to retire by checking out guide on this.
Accessing your super at age 65 and older
Once you turn 65 you can access your super with or without needing to retire. This is because turning 65 is a condition of release in itself - you only need to retire if you're planning to access your super before you turn 65.
You have the choice of receiving your super as one lump sum payout, or setting up an account-based pension and receiving a portion of your balance each year like a salary.
How you can access your super early?
Certain exceptions allow early access to superannuation.
If you don't meet one of the above conditions of release, it's very difficult to access your super. However, there are some situations when you can be grated early release of your super. These grounds are very limited and include:
On compassionate grounds
You can make a claim for an early superannuation release on one or more of the following compassionate grounds:
- Medical treatment
- Mortgage assistance
- Home or motor vehicle modifications
- Palliative care
- Funeral assistance
Severe financial hardship
If you are experiencing financial hardship and have been receiving income support from Centrelink for at least 26 weeks, you may be able to access your super early by contacting your superannuation directly.
Balance is less than $200
If you changed jobs and the contributions you have made is less than $200, then you will be granted access. Likewise is true if you have found your lost account with a balance of less than $200.
Permanent disability and death
Death and permanent incapacity can also allow you access; provided that you have complete medical proof that you will be unable to work again.
Protect your super
Getting to the point where you can tap into your super is pretty exciting—it's like your past self giving a high-five to your future self for all that hard work. But as you get ready to enjoy the rewards, stay sharp! There are a number of scams related to super, so make sure you're on the lookout for anything that looks suspicious when you're looking to withdraw your super early.
But at the same time, avoid falling victim to scams or fraudulent schemes related to early superannuation access. Scams in the super space are common, and they can come from all angles, trying to tempt you with early access to your funds. So, if something seems off, trust your gut and double-check.
Make sure to check your financial advisor is licenced if you decide to use one. If you fall victim to scam it can put your retirement at risk, so make sure you take steps to protect your identity and check if a company or person you are talking to is licenced with ASIC. If you're unsure, you can contact your super fund or ASIC directly.
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