With the cost of living skyrocketing, an illness or redundancy can spell financial disaster for thousands of Australians. For all, the superannuation system is a complex one, with few aware of the circumstances that enable your funds tied up in super to be accessed early.
Generally, any money saved in the superannuation system after 1 July 1999 (as well as investment earnings) is considered ‘preserved’ until retirement age. There exists however, a minimum age of release known as the preservation age. Your preservation age may differ depending on your date of birth. 
|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|
|1 July 1964 or after||60|
Despite the general rule preventing access to one’s superannuation funds prior to preservation age, your circumstances may satisfy a condition of release that may enable you to apply to access your saved super early.
Severe Financial Hardship
Where you can show that you are unable to pay reasonable and immediate family living costs and have been in receipt of an income support payment for at least 26 weeks at the time of applying to the Trustees, your super fund may let you access the money early. This may be in circumstances where you have suffered a serious injury and are unable to work.
Different rules apply if you’re over preservation age. To satisfy the condition of release, you must not be gainfully employed at the time of your application and must be in receipt of an income support payment for at least 39 weeks in total since reaching preservation age.
You must apply to your super fund to consider an early release of your super on these grounds. It should be noted that not all super funds allow early access under this circumstance.
In limited circumstances, you may be granted early access to your super on compassionate grounds. Where you are a permanent resident, the Department of Human Services will assess and approve the early release of your superannuation.
Such a release endeavours to cover costs for you and your dependants, such as:
- Medical treatment and transport
- Mortgage repayments
- Home or vehicle modifications
- Palliative care or funeral expenses
In reality, considering accessing your super early ought to be the last resort. That is, because the short-term gain of using your superannuation must be weighed against the effect of decreasing one’s retirement fund. To put this into perspective, gaining access to your super to pay your mortgage in a situation where you cannot afford the long-term mortgage repayments, merely delays the inevitable sale of your property. In doing so, the funds released from your super may no longer be protected from your creditors.
How Shine Can Help
At Shine Lawyers, we have a dedicated team of legal experts with a proven track record in helping everyday Australians access their superannuation and insurance benefits. Our team are available to provide you with clear, tailored advice as to the extent of your entitlements, should you face financial difficulty. Gaining access to these benefits can be a lengthy and complicated process, so get in touch today.
Written by Shine Lawyers on . Last modified: July 24, 2018.