Accessing super early: Living overseas and reached preservation age

Q: I’m an expat Australian, and I have been living in Europe for quite a few years. I am 57 and I want to access my superannuation to buy a property. Is that possible? I have no idea if I will retire back in Australia or stay here, but my view is that if I do retire back in Australia, I will sell the property to fund my retirement.

A: I have divided your question into 2 questions:

  1. Can I access my super at 57, if I am living overseas
  2. Can I access my super to buy a property? 

1. Can I access my super at 57, if I am living overseas?

The rules relating to when you can access your super benefits are fairly strict. You must satisfy a condition of release, and the most popular conditions of release are:

  • Retirement after reaching preservation age (age 55 years for those born before July 1960, and at least 56 year for those born after June 1960), OR
  • Turning 65, which is considered a condition of release, and you don’t have to retire from the workforce, OR
  • Taking a transition-to-retirement pension (TRIP), which is only available to individuals who have reached their preservation age, OR
  • When you suffer ‘severe financial hardship’ (hardship provisions don’t generally apply to individuals living outside Australia).

Specific rules regarding super access come into play when a fund member has reached their preservation age. Preservation age is at least 56 years (for those Australians born after June 1960) depending on birth date, although if a person was born before July 1960, he or she has a preservation age of 55 years. Reaching your preservation age means an individual can access super benefits provided they have also retired from the workforce.

If you were born before 1 July 1960, your preservation age is 55 years, which applies to anyone currently 57 years of age.

For an Australian living overseas, the rules are a little more complicated: you should check the rules with your Australian super fund, and the tax implications with your accountant or the ATO.

Generally, an Australian living overseas, like an Australian at home, who has reached their preservation age, can access his or her super benefits in Australia provided they provide documentary evidence to the fund that they have retired.

If an ex-pat is no longer a resident of Australia however, and reached preservation age, I believe that provided the individual supplies documentation of overseas residency and that they are not employed in Australia, then super funds will consider releasing the super benefits, although super funds will generally still require some form of ‘retirement’ declaration. Again, you need to do your own research on your particular circumstances.

Note: Tax is generally payable on super benefits withdrawn before the age of 60, and Australians living overseas will need to get tax advice on how the super benefits affect other taxable income.

You may find the following SuperGuide articles helpful:

2. Can I access my super to buy a property?

The answer to whether you can access your super to buy a property is, generally ‘no’, although there is an exception in relation to self-managed super funds, in particular, commercial property.

As I mentioned earlier in my response, the general answer is that you can only access your super if you satisfy a condition of release such as, retiring after your preservation age (55 if born before July 1960, and at least 56 years and up to 60 years, if born after June 1960), turning 65, or suffering severe financial hardship (subject to strict rules).

If you satisfy a condition of release, such as retirement, and you can access your super benefits, then how you spend your super benefits on is up to you.

If you run a self-managed super fund (which is unlikely if you have been living overseas for an extended period), then there may be opportunities to purchase property within your super fund, but generally not for personal use. The only exception to personal use within a self-managed super fund is where the property is a business-related property, such as an office, factory or shop, and then it may be possible to lease the property from your super fund.


  1. My wife and I are Australian and have resided overseas for over twenty years and so are not resident in Australia for tax purposes. I accessed my super last year from AMP as I was over 55 and retired. No problems. No taxation withheld my wife is now retired, over 55 etc is now trying to access her super from the same company. Her policy number is all of one digit difference to mine. Massive problems; AMP are implying it will mean a 48% taxation hit.

    Same company, same policy, same circumstances – but two totally different results

  2. I have been living in the u.s.a for a while. Could I use my super as collateral to buy a property in australia. I will not retire for a long time yet.

    is there an ideal time to move back to australia for good and work in the university system (which has good super) before retiring? This would allow me to accumulate a good level of funds in my super.

  3. If I no longer live in Australia and am 55, is it possible to release my super funds without “retiring”. I have not worked in Australia for over 20 years, am not retired from the workforce overseas nor am I able to predict the future yet it seems I must be “retired” from the Australian workforce in order to access my money. Is this correct? It seems rather odd to have to maintain a fund from overseas in Australia when not employed there, especially since the real benefit of super seems to be the ability to build it up and get compound interest. Overseas residents are split between two funds, the one locally and the former in Australia that began under the assumption that one would remain in the workforce there. Things change but do the rules?

  4. Douglas Rowell says:

    Can I use my SMSF to buy a Commercial property overseas and is it possible to borrow money locally to help finance it.

  5. Brian Stiles, says:

    I bought a second house in 1995 as my superanuation, with the intention of paying it off and the rent from it would keep me in my retirement,
    But instead, I retired when I sold my second house and invested the money long term giving me a modest income from the interest, earning me about the same amount as the rent but with out the stress of a rental property.
    Does this count as Superanuation or is it classified as just a long term investment,

  6. Maria Vaneveld says:

    I am looking at living overseas and would like to access my super to fund this. Can I get access to my super if I have long term leave from my Job?

  7. David Shaw says:


    I’ve lived in the US now for almost 10 years and would like to get a portion of my super (about 20000 of the 160000 that I have there.) for buying a house. I’m 56 but not retired and am a triple citizen British (Yup a pommie) Aussie and U.S. I want to leavemost of my super in Oz because quite frankly it’s earning much more there than I can hope to get here. Also there is a possibility that when I do retire I would do so in Australia. all would depend on taxes, exchange rates etc etc. naturally if I were to retire in Oz then I would probably sell my home in the U.S. Though once again a rental income may make more sense. Might this be possible, and who would I talk to? I already looked at my super site (unisuper) and it’s contact page said that they only provide factual info not advice on particular circumstances


  8. hi my name is pinky last 4to 5 years we was kiving ausralia but now we are living in india taht time we have student visa ny husbad has a taxpaid job so my question is how can we apply fr our spueraanuation and how many days we got super pl hepl us we are very worried about our super pl guide us


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