How to access your super earlier than expected

Super is a long-term investment for your retirement. It's usually only accessible once you reach a certain age. But, when life doesn't go according to plan, you may be eligible to access your super early.

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You can access super:

  • after reaching your 'preservation' age;
  • in times of financial hardship;
  • on compassionate grounds;
  • if you're a temporary resident leaving the country or
  • if you are terminally ill or permanently incapacitated.

Accessing super ahead of retirement has strict eligibility rules. Here are the special circumstances involved.

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Financial hardship

Superannuation law only allows us to release benefits to members before retirement in specific circumstances. This means you must meet the eligibility criteria (explained below). You may be taxed on funds withdrawn depending on your age and whether you've given us your tax file number.


Work out if you're eligible

Know your preservation age

Your preservation age is the minimum age set by law at which your super must be 'preserved' until it becomes accessible. 
The accessible age is between 55 and 60 and depends on your birthdate. Importantly, your preservation age is different from your retirement age.

Once you reach your preservation age, you can access your super: 

  • if you are permanently retired; 
  • or have reached the age of 65. 

If you have yet to retire permanently, you can access part of your super through a Transition to Retirement pension (TTR).  Learn more about TTRs here.

Date of birth Preservation age
Before 1 July 1960 55
1 July 1960 to 30 June 1961 56
1 July 1961 to 30 June 1962 57
1 July 1962 to 30 June 1963 58
1 July 1963 to 30 June 1964 59
1 July 1964 and onwards 60

You must meet the criteria below for your age bracket and have been a member of legalsuper for at least six months.

If you're under the preservation age

  • You have been on an eligible Commonwealth Government income support payment for a continuous period of 26 weeks (roughly six months), AND
  • You are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses.

Then, the maximum you can apply to withdraw is $10,000 in a 12-month period.

If you're over the preservation age

  • You have been on an eligible Commonwealth Government income support payment for a cumulative period of 39 weeks (roughly 9 months) after you have reached your preservation age AND
  • You are not gainfully employed on a full or part-time basis.

Then, you can apply to withdraw any amount.

Identity and membership information

  • Provide identity details and authorise us to check them – e.g., Medicare card number, passport or driver's license numbers, OR
  • Provide certified copies of identity documents or authorise us to check your identity using your provided information.

Government support 

  • Provide your Centrelink Reference Number (CRN) and authorise us to check that you have received a payment for that fortnight/pay period.

Claim amount and bank account 

  • Tell us how much you want to withdraw and where to deposit funds.

Evidence to support your claim

  • If you're under preservation age, we may ask you to provide recent evidence to support your claim of financial hardship. Your evidence should support your current financial circumstances. Any documents you provide should be dated within three months of supplying them.

The maximum amount depends on which eligibility criteria you meet. Please note: reducing your super balance can affect your insurance cover.

The minimum amount is either:

  • $1000, OR
  • Your total balance if it is less than $1000
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Compassionate grounds

Compassionate grounds include needing money to pay for outstanding expenses such as medical care, dental treatment, and mortgage repayments. 

To make a Short-term illness & temporary or permanent disablement claim, find out more here.

For further information, go to the ATO website.

A request to claim an early super payment on compassionate grounds can only be considered if you meet all the qualifying conditions. You can apply to make a claim if you believe you meet these conditions. Complete each step correctly and include all required supporting documentation.

Condition 1

Early release of super is needed for:

  • Medical or dental treatment
  • Mortgage repayments
  • Home or vehicle modification

You meet the requirements for the ground on which you applied.

Condition 2

You still need to pay the expense. We can only approve compassionate release of super to assist with unpaid expenses.

Condition 3

You cannot afford to pay part or all of the expenses without accessing your super. That is, you can't pay the expense by:

  • Getting a loan
  • Using your savings
  • Selling shares, investments, or assets.

Condition 4

You are, or have been, a citizen or permanent resident of Australia or New Zealand.

Current and former temporary residents who are not Australian or New Zealand citizens or permanent residents are also not eligible. 

Condition 5

With your application, you supply all required supporting evidence, including all unpaid invoices and/or quotes.

To make a claim on compassionate grounds, you must apply through the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). If the ATO approves the early release of your super, you can then use us for a Benefit payment.

Step 1: Gather the evidence to support your claim

The evidence needed to access your super early differs for each situation under which you may be eligible. Full details of the evidence required for each situation can be found on the ATO website.

Step 2: Complete the ATO application form

You can complete the form online. Simply link your myGov account to the ATO and navigate to the ATO Online Services page. You can also request a paper application form.

Step 3: Wait for ATO approval

The process takes up to 14 days for online applications and up to 28 for paper applications. The ATO will advise you and legalsuper if your application to claim is approved.

If your application to the ATO has been approved, you can apply directly to us for the early release of your superannuation.

Step 4: Prepare your submission to legalsuper

In addition to the early release form, your submission must include:

  • The ATO letter of approval
  • Proof of identity documents as outlined on the application form, unless you have already provided us with certified copies of these documents
  • A copy of your bank statement if you would like us to pay you directly to your bank account.

Make sure the declaration on the form is signed and dated before submitting.

Step 5: Submit your completed form and documents

Once we receive your application form and documents, we will match these with the ATO approval advice. We will let you know if you need to provide further information.

Please allow three to five business days for your application to be processed and for payment to be made.

Super accessed before reaching preservation age (see table above) will not usually be tax-free. The taxable component of a payment made before preservation age is taxed at 20%, in addition to any applicable levies. The amount of super you can withdraw is limited to what you reasonably require to meet the outstanding expense or expenses.  

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Understanding your financial well-being

Financial well-being measures your ability to comfortably meet current commitments and maintain that comfort into the future. A significant aspect of financial well-being involves comprehending the workings of money and mastering its management. This understanding influences your behaviour, attitude toward money, and ability to navigate change effectively.

At legalsuper, we firmly believe that financial well-being is crucial to everyone's life. If you face challenges and require support, ask one of our Client Service Managers for advice. They can help you make the right decision for your needs. Call 1800 060 213 or contact the Client Services Team.

Helpful resources

The Australian Government supports eligible individuals and families experiencing financial crises in partnership with community organisations. It helps build financial well-being, capability, and resilience for vulnerable people and those at risk of financial and social inclusion and disadvantage. Through the Financial Well-being and Capability Activity, people can acquire budgeting and financial literacy skills to help them navigate debt and learn strategies to better manage their money and become financially independent.  

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 is a not-for-profit service that helps people tackle their debt problems. Call 1800 007 007.

Once you have reached preservation age and the terms of release, you can choose to receive your super as a:

  • lump sum (part or the whole amount deposited to your bank account) or
  • an account-based pension, also known as a retirement income stream (e.g. $500 a fortnight)
  • or a combination of both.

Seek financial advice if you need help working out what's best for you.

There is a limit on how much money can be held in an account-based pension. This is called the transfer balance cap and is currently set at $1.9 million. Details of this and other changes to super are available on the Australian Tax Office (ATO) website.  

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Moving to New Zealand? Transfer your super to a KiwiSaver.

If you are moving from Australia to New Zealand, you can transfer your super to a New Zealand KiwiSaver scheme (which is not taxed on exit). You must let us know that you wish to transfer your benefits, and we will provide a statement demonstrating your balance to you and your KiwiSaver scheme provider. The same rules apply when accessing your Australian superannuation benefits - you can only use your Australian super benefits once you reach the relevant preservation age or meet specific criteria. For more information, refer to the ATO website.
Visit the ATO website