When Can I Access My Super and at What Age?
Written by: Chris Strano
So, you want to know when you can withdraw your super? Well, after all, it’s your money, isn’t it?
While it is your money, there are some rules around when you can access your superannuation in Australia. I’m going to go through each of your options. You might actually be able to get access to your super sooner than you thought. But should you?
When Can I Access My Super?
Generally, you need to have at least reached what’s called your superannuation preservation age prior to being able to access your super.
Once you have attained your superannuation preservation age, you will be able to access your super in some form or another. The amount of super you can access will be determined by your employment status.
What Is My Superannuation Preservation Age?
Your preservation age is determined by the year and month you were born, as shown in the table below:
|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|
|After 1 July 1964||60|
Your preservation age is the earliest age you are able to access your super, unless you meet one of the specific early access provisions, which can be found below.
What Age Can I Access My Super?
Depending on your age and employment status, you can either have full access to your super or limited access to your super.
Limited Access to Super
To have limited access to your super, you only need to have reached your superannuation preservation age. Once you have reached your preservation age, you can use your super to start a transition to retirement (TTR) pension. You can start a transition to retirement pension, even if you are still working.
A TTR pension is an income stream that allows you to receive an income of between 4% and 10% of your account balance each financial year, based on your balance on 1 July of each year.
Full Access to Super
To access your super in full, you need to either be over age 65, or have met the superannuation definition of retirement.
If you have reached age 65 or met the definition of retirement, you have unrestricted access to your super via a lump sum withdrawal or account based pension income stream.
There are two ways that you can satisfy the definition of retirement for superannuation purposes:
Being over your preservation age and retired, with no intention of returning to full-time or part-time work;
2. CEASING AN EMPLOYMENT ARRANGEMENT
Had an employment arrangement come to an end after reaching age 60.
Part-time work is defined as working between 10 and 30 hours per week. Full-time work is anything above 30 hours per week. Therefore, you need to work less than 10 hours per week to be considered retired.
To elaborate on option 2, above, having an employment arrangement come to an end means that any occupation you were engaged in, for gain or reward, comes to an end. This can include self-employed work or being an employee. If you have two jobs, ceasing one of those employment arrangements would generally meet the definition.
If you do have an employment arrangement come to an end, there is nothing stopping you obtaining work elsewhere in a new role or different business; and there is no timeframe that needs to pass between finishing one job and starting a new one. However, before finishing in one role, you can’t have an agreement under an existing arrangement where you will have another position to fill – as this would not signify an end to an employment arrangement.
If you do have an employment arrangement come to an end after reaching age 60, your total super balance from that date becomes fully unrestricted and unpreserved, meaning you will always have access to it, even if you start a new job. This unrestricted balance will never be ‘locked-up’ again. However, any future super contributions made after that date will be preserved until you meet another superannuation condition of release.
Read more: Superannuation Advice
Can I Access My Super at 60 and Still Work?
As mentioned above, if you are age 60, you can access your super via a TTR pension and still work either full-time, part-time or casually.
Alternatively, if you have reached your preservation age and are retired, you can access your super in full and still work less than 10 hours per week. Or, if you had an employment arrangement come to an end after 60, you can go back to work while having full access to the super you accumulated up until that point.
When Can I Access My Super Tax Free?
Generally, you can access your super tax free as a lump sum withdrawal or income stream after reaching age 60. There may be tax on withdrawals from super while under age 60, but there are a number of strategies to minimise or eliminate tax on withdrawals under age 60.
How To Access My Super
The process involved in accessing your super will often depend on the process and information required by your superannuation fund.
In order to use your super to start a TTR pension, you will need to find the relevant documentation on your super fund’s website, download it, complete it, sign it and send it in. Alternatively, you may wish to phone them and they can email you the required documentation to complete.
The same goes for starting an account based pension or making a lump sum withdrawal. You will need to complete the necessary documentation, including details about the amount of super you would like to access, whether it be as an income stream or lump sum, and sign the declaration stating that you are eligible to access your super in full.
Other Ways to Access Your Super Early
The most common ways of accessing your super is by either reaching your preservation age, meeting the definition of retirement, or reaching age 65. However, there are ways you can gain early access to your super, but it is important to note that accessing super early will usually result in some form of tax on the withdrawal amount.
Some ways in which you can access your super early include:
Early Access On Compassionate Grounds
Compassionate grounds allows you to access super to cover costs of medical treatment, palliative care, accommodating a disability or expenses associated with death for you or a dependant. You may also be able to access your super to make a payment on a home loan or council rates so you don’t lose your home.
Early Access Due to Severe Financial Hardship
Severe financial hardship allows you to access between $1,000 and $10,000 of your super if you have been on eligible government income support payments continuously for 26 weeks and are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses.
Early Access Due to a Terminal Medical Illness
You can access your super If two registered medical practitioners have certified that you suffer from an injury or illness that is likely to result in death within 24 months and at least one of the medical practitioners is a specialist practising in an area related to your injury or illness.
Early Access Due to Temporary Incapacity
If you are temporarily unable to work, or need to work less, due to a physical or mental medical condition, you can access regular income stream payments during the time you are unable to work, usually in the form of access to insurance benefits held within your super account.
Early Access Due to Permanent Incapacity
You generally have access to all of your super if your super fund trustee is satisfied that you are incapacitated as a result of injury or mental illness that is likely to result in you being unable to work ever again in a job that you were qualified to do education, training or experience.
Early Access for Super Balances Below $200
You can access your super if your employment has been terminated and your super balance is below $200, or if you have found a super account through lost super that has a balance of less than $200,
Ultimately, the longer you leave your money inside super, the more you will have to cover your expenses through retirement. However, accessing super before retirement can help you through difficult circumstances, can assist your transition into retirement or can allow you to implement tax-effective retirement planning strategies.