Superannuation is an important financial investment which is designed to help provide for all Australians in their retirement.  Since the GFC however, many people have faced difficult economic circumstances, as well as others who due to significant decreases in the value of their super balances, have lost faith in the superannuation system.  As a result, our financial planners are contacted by many members of the public enquiring about when, and how, they can legally access their superannuation savings for retirement.


When can I access my superannuation?

In most cases, superannuation cannot be accessed until you reach your ‘preservation’ age.  This is the minimum age set by the Australian Taxation Office  (ATO) when you can withdraw from your super.  The preservation age is at least 55 years for anyone born before 1 July 1960, but steadily increases for people born after this date up to age 60 for people born on or after 1 July 1964.

There are, however, exceptional circumstances which can allow you to legally access your superannuation early. If you satisfy a condition of release, your preserved benefits can become unrestricted.  The most common conditions of superannuation release in Australia are:

  • Reaching age 65:  Once you turn 65, you are able to access your entire superannuation balance, even if you decide to continue working.
  • Starting a Transition to Retirement Pension (TRIP):  You can access your superannuation as a non-commutable income stream without needing to retire if you are aged 55 or over.
  • Severe financial hardship:  If you are experiencing severe financial hardship, the trustee of your super fund may give you access to some of your superannuation subject to some conditions.  Generally, you must have been receiving income support from the Government (e.g. unemployment benefits) for a minimum period.  The trustee must be satisfied that you are unable to meet your family’s everyday living expenses.
  • Non-resident departing Australia permanently:  If you’re not a resident of Australia (e.g. working in Australia on a temporary resident or working holiday visa), you can access your superannuation when you leave Australia permanently.
  • Compassionate grounds: The trustee of your super fund can release part or all of your preserved benefits if you are suffering a life-threatening illness to fund medical expenses, palliative care, or funeral expenses.  You can also apply to access your super if you or one of your dependants become severely disabled.
  • Death:  If you die, your estate (your spouse or other dependants) receives a death benefit from your superannuation fund.


An example of legally accessing superannuation by satisfying a condition of release:

Kieran lost his job in 2010 and has not been able to find a job since that time.  He has been receiving income support from Centrelink since July 2010.  He has large expenses and several dependants and was unable to meet his ongoing living expenses.  He applied to the trustee of his superannuation to gain access to his super fund early.  His trustee reviewed his situation and granted him early access to $10,000 of his superannuation balance.


Would you like to learn more about superannuation?

Contact our Sydney Financial Planners to learn about how you can harness the financial potential of your superannuation.  First meetings with our financial planning experts are free.


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One Response to “Legally Access Your Superannuation Early”

  1. dave November 8, 2012 at 2:11 am #

    hi i have money in a super account from when i was in australia on a working holiday visa. however i have left and was wondering about my super. if i withdraw it and i decide to go back to australia in the future and gained residency or citizenship would i b able to access my super again if i built up some more money before i reach 65? or do i have to wait until I’m 65 to get access to it? this woudn’t include the special circumstances like death or injury etc. Just if i was in good health and wanted to withdraw some money.