Accessing super in times of financial hardship
There might be a time in your life where you experience severe financial challenges. While your super is intended to provide an income in retirement, read below to explore how you might be able to access your super in times of financial hardship.
Key learnings covered in this topic
- Options available to you in times of financial hardship
- Eligibility and application process
- Key things to consider
- Possible impact on your future super balance
EARLY RELEASE OF SUPER
Under specific circumstances, you may be eligible to access a portion of your super early. The Australian government has established guidelines to ensure that individuals facing severe financial hardship and in exceptional circumstances can access their super savings before retirement. It's crucial to note that accessing your super early should be considered as a last resort, as it can negatively affect how much super you will have to fund your retirement.
Severe financial hardship
If you're experiencing severe financial hardship, you may be eligible to withdraw a portion of your super. The requirements may differ depending on whether you are under or over preservation age (the age you can legally access your super).
Under preservation age
- You have been receiving an eligible government income through Centrelink for 26 continuous weeks or more, and
- You are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses, and
- You can claim between $1,000 and up to a maximum of $10,000 (unless your balance is less than that).
Over preservation age
- You have been receiving an eligible government income through Centrelink/Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) for 39 cumulative weeks or more, and
- You are no longer gainfully employed on a full-time or part-time basis, and
- There is no maximum limit to your claim if you are over preservation age.
You can apply once in a 12-month period if you’ve been a member with us for a minimum of 1 year.
In exceptional circumstances, you may require early access to your super due to compassionate grounds. These grounds can include medical treatments, preventing foreclosure on your home, or covering funeral expenses for a dependent. Each case is assessed individually, and specific requirements need to be met.
ELIGIBILITY AND APPLICATION PROCESS
To determine your eligibility for early release of super, view our Accessing your super guidelines. It’s important to thoroughly understand the criteria and gather all necessary documentation to support your application. You’ll need to complete and return a Making a financial hardship claim form.
CONSIDERATIONS AND POTENTIAL IMPACTS
While accessing your super early can provide temporary financial relief, it’s essential to consider the potential long-term implications. Remember, your super is intended to support you in retirement, and accessing it early should only be considered after exploring all other options.
Seeking financial advice
Before making any decisions regarding accessing your super, you may wish to consider seeking financial advice. Financial advisors can provide personalised guidance based on your specific circumstances, ensuring you understand the long-term implications of accessing your super early. As a CareSuper member you can access financial advice over the phone, at no extra cost.* Visit caresuper.com.au/advice to learn more about all our advice options and book an advice call-back.
Reduced retirement savings
Withdrawing your super early super means reducing the amount of money that will be available to provide an income for you through your retirement. The benefit of keeping all your super together until you retire is that it will benefit from compounding interest over time – which can significantly boost your final super balance. Therefore, accessing your super early may hinder your ability to achieve your retirement goals.
Accessing your super early may also have impacts on your insurance cover, resulting in you not having enough left in your account to continue paying your insurance fees.
Early release of super may have tax implications depending on your circumstances. For instance, super withdrawn due to severe financial hardship or compassionate grounds payments are taxed as a lump sum. Between 17 and 22% tax applies to the taxable component of your withdrawal if you’re under 60 years old. 0% applies to any tax-free components. Super withdrawals are tax free for those aged 60 and over.
An early release of your super may also reduce your Centrelink payments. Contact servicesaustralia.gov.au to check if there are impacts on any government benefits, you’re receiving.
If you don’t meet the eligibility criteria for severe financial hardship, there are other options to help you out.
- National Debt Helpline is a not-for-profit service that helps people tackle their debt problems, offering free and confidential independent financial counsellors. Visit ndh.org.au to learn more.
- If you’re ineligible for financial hardship payments, moneysmart.gov.au/managing-debt provides guidance on managing your debt, dealing with debt collectors and more.
*Financial advice obtained over the phone, or through MemberOnline, is provided by Mercer Financial Advice (Australia) Pty Ltd (MFAAPL) ABN 76 153 168 293, Australian Financial Services Licence #411766.