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Home Advice & support Support options Services for members at risk Financial Hardship, COVID-19 & Early Super Access

Financial Hardship, COVID-19 & Early Super Access

At legalsuper, we know that sometimes things don't go according to plan. In general, we advise that Super is a long-term investment for your retirement and so you normally can’t access it until you’ve reached your preservation age. However, there are some special circumstances where you may be eligible to access your super early. 

Loss of income due to COVID-19

If you are suffering hardship from having lost your job or income due to the coronavirus economic downturn, learn about early access to your retirement savings here.

If you want to access your super before reaching your preservation age, you will need to prove you have met a condition of release. Reasons for requesting access to your super early include:

  • Financial hardship
  • Compassionate grounds
  • Terminal illness or permanent incapacity; or
  • If you’re a temporary resident permanently leaving the country.

Accessing your super early unless you meet a condition of release is illegal. Additionally, we advise you to beware of people promoting early release of super schemes. They might tell you they can help you open an SMSF to access your super to pay off credit card debt, buy a house or car, or go on a holiday. These schemes are illegal. Before accessing your super early, it’s important to consider how it will impact your retirement, taxes and what effect it will have on any other benefits you’re receiving. 

There are conditions and requirements that need to be met to demonstrate your eligibility.

Financial hardship

What is considered ‘severe financial hardship’?

You are considered to be in ‘severe financial hardship’, if you satisfy one of the following two scenarios:

  • You have received Commonwealth income support payments for a CONTINUOUS period of 26 weeks AND you are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses
  • Income support includes NewStart allowance, Disability Support, parenting payment, carer’s payment, and widow allowance, but does not include Austudy payments, or Youth Allowance paid to students in full-time study.


  • You have reached your preservation age and you have been in receipt of Commonwealth income support for a CUMULATIVE period of 39 weeks after you reached your preservation age, and this is confirmed by written evidence provided by at least one Commonwealth department or agency responsible for the income support payments.

If you are under 60 years old, your benefit is generally taxed between 17% and 22%. If you are over 60 years old, you will not be taxed.

To enquire about applying for financial hardship, please call legalsuper on 1800 060 312 or Contact Us.

Compassionate grounds

Early release under Compassionate grounds must be to cover specific unpaid expenses, including: 

  • Mortgage assistance
  • Medical treatment
  • Medical transport
  • Modifications to home and/or vehicle where a fund member or fund member’s dependant suffers a severe disability
  • Funeral or burial or other expenses related to the death of a dependant, that is, the deceased person was financially, domestically or personally reliant on you; or
  • Palliative care for a terminal condition suffered by you or one of your dependants.

The amount of super you can withdraw is limited to what you reasonably need. It is paid and taxed as a normal super lump sum. If you are under 60 years old, this is generally taxed between 17% and 22%. If you are over 60 years old, you will not be taxed.

Read more about compassionate grounds on the ATO website. Here, you can also find out steps that you need to take before you apply to legalsuper for early super access. 

Financial Wellbeing

Financial wellbeing is a measure of how comfortably you’re able to meet your current commitments and how comfortable you will be in the future to continue with these commitments. A large part of financial wellbeing is understanding how money works and how to manage it can impact our behaviour, attitude to money and how we can best cope with change.

At legalsuper, we believe that financial wellbeing is important for everyone. If you're struggling with your own financial wellbeing and need some guidance, there is help available to you. Please see below links to services that may be able to help you find a better balance when it comes to your financial wellbeing.

Australian Government, Department of Social Services (Communities and Vulnerable People)

The Australian Government, in partnership with community organisations, provides support to eligible individuals and families experiencing financial crises and help build financial wellbeing, financial capability, and resilience for vulnerable people and those most at risk of financial and social inclusion and disadvantage. People can acquire budgeting and financial literacy skills to help navigate through debt and learn strategies to better manage their money and become financially independent through the Financial Wellbeing and Capability Activity

Financial Counselling Australia 

FCA is the national voice for the financial counselling profession in Australia. It is a not-for-profit organisation that:

  • Provides resources and support for financial counsellors.
  • Advocates for a fairer marketplace.
  • Works to raise the profile of financial counsellors.
  • Advocates to increase access to financial counselling; and
  • Works to improve hardship processes for people in financial difficulty.

National Debt helpline

National Debt Helpline is a not-for-profit service that helps people tackle their debt problems.