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Who you contact to apply to release your Super early, depends on the reason you need it

Getting money out of super early on compassionate grounds

Many people are unsure about whether they could get early access to some of their superannuation funds.

While this is a very complicated task (and perhaps the stuff of urban legend) it's worth setting the story straight; so you know where you stand with your super.

  • There are very limited circumstances when you can access your super early.
  • These circumstances are mainly related to specific medical conditions, severe financial hardship, or compassionate grounds.

Read in this article

While your super fund can help you with an early claim for super made under financial hardship, claims made under compassionate grounds must go direct to the ATO.

Yes, it’s your money

Super is your money, but just not yet.

In practical terms, the primary purpose of superannuation is to provide benefits to super members in their retirement, or on their death or disability before retirement.

The carrot

  • The government provides tax concessions to encourage people to save more in their super.

The stick

  • In return for the lower tax rate, they restrict when people can withdraw funds from their super before their official retirement age.

The age when you can access your super normally is a little different for some older Australians, but either way, it's referred to as reaching your Preservation Age.

Calculating your Preservation Age

The Preservation Age of a super fund member depends on their date of birth.

For people born before July 1960, the preservation age is 55. For those born after this date, the preservation age is being phased up to age 60, as shown in the table.

Date of BirthPreservation 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
After 30 June 1964 60

So what are Preserved super funds?

Basically, everything that went into your super fund from July 1999 you can consider preserved funds.

While there are different rules for different types of past super contributions (and different confusing names to match), for the majority of Australians born after 2000, you can consider all the money that's gone into your super, preserved.

Have a look at your recent fund's annual statement and it should show you a breakdown of your preserved funds as well as any balances that are classed as unrestricted, non-preserved, restricted non-preserved and reserved benefits.

Now you know your preservation age, it's time to learn what's an official Condition of Release.

So what’s a Condition of Release?

Simply put, it's a legally recognised condition you must meet before you can get access to your super funds.

The 5 most common Conditions of Release for paying out super benefits are when you have;

  • reached your preservation age and retire
  • reached your  preservation age and began a transition-to-retirement income stream
  • ceased an employment arrangement on or after the age of 60
  • are 65 years of age (even if you haven't retired)
  • have died.

There are some limited special circumstances where a small part of a member’s super benefits can be released before they reach their preservation age.

What’s a Condition of Early Release?

There are very limited special circumstances when you can access your super early.

  • These circumstances are mainly related to specific medical conditions or severe financial hardship.
  • You may be allowed to withdraw some of your super on compassionate grounds for unpaid expenses.

Examples of Compassionate Grounds

What's recognised as compassionate grounds can include the following;

  • paying for medical treatment for you or a dependant
  • making a payment on a loan to prevent you from losing your house
  • modifying your home or vehicle for the special needs of you or a dependant because of a severe disability
  • paying for expenses associated with a death, funeral or burial of a dependant.

To find out more about the eligibility criteria to access your super on compassionate grounds, refer to the ATO rules Access on Compassionate Grounds - for more detail.

Caution: If you’re approved to access some of your super early on compassionate grounds, understand the amount is paid and taxed as a lump sum, so make sure you provide for tax.



author pic drew browneDrew Browne is a specialty Financial Risk Advisor working with Small Business Owners & their Families, Dual Income Professional Couples, and diverse families. He's an award-winning writer, speaker, financial adviser and business strategy mentor. His business Sapience Financial Group is committed to using business solutions for good in the community. In 2015 he was certified as a B Corp., and in 2017 was recognised in the inaugural Australian National Businesses of Tomorrow Awards. Today he advises Small Business Owners and their families, on how to protect themselves, from their businesses.  He writes for successful Small Business Owners and Industry publications. You can read his Modern Small Business Leadership Blog here. You can connect with him on LinkedIn Any information provided is general advice only and we have not considered your personal circumstances. Before making any decision on the basis of this advice you should consider if the advice is appropriate for you based on your particular circumstance.

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