Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits

Many Australians are facing hard times, especially with structural change transforming our economy. The harsh reality is that mortgage repayments and everyday living expenses continue even when you suffer redundancy, illness or other forms of misfortune.

We receive hundreds of emails from our 2 million website visitors annually (including visitors from around the world) asking when, and how, you can claim your Australian super benefits.

Withdrawing superannuation benefits means you must satisfy certain super rules. In simple terms, there are 14 ways to unlock your super early (or for your family to unlock your super if you die), which are listed later in the article.

Note: This article provides an excellent overview and summary of the 14 main ways you access your super. You can also use this article to access more than 50 articles (you can find the links contained within this article), answering different aspects of accessing super benefits early. This summary article, and the 50-plus related articles, are a product of the most popular questions asked by readers on the topic of accessing super early.

Why is ‘preservation age’ so important?

In most cases you cannot withdraw your superannuation until you reach your preservation age and retire, which is age 55 for those born before July 1960, and at least 56 years for those born after June 1960, and at least 57 years for those born after June 1961, and up to age 60, depending on your date of birth. For a fund member born after June 1964, preservation age is 60 years (see table below).

‘Preservation’ in this context simply means locked away, although some Australians who have had superannuation accounts prior to 1999 may also have some ‘unrestricted non-preserved’ benefits which they can access at any time.

Note: ‘Preserved’ benefits do not mean that your superannuation benefits are a fixed, guaranteed amount; just that they are locked away until you reach your preservation age and retire, or, satisfy another condition of release. See table below, and for more information on your preservation age see SuperGuide article Accessing super: What is my preservation age?

What is my preservation age?

Date of birthYour preservation age
Before 1 July 196055
From 1 July 1960 until 30 June 196156
From 1 July 1961 until 30 June 196257
From 1 July 1962 until 30 June 196358
From 1 July 1963 until 30 June 196459
On or after 1 July 196460

Source: Adapted from Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Regulations 1994, sub-Regulation 6.01 

When can I access my superannuation benefits?

In most cases, you can only withdraw your super if you satisfy a condition of release. Satisfying a condition of release means your preserved benefits can be accessed immediately (or as soon as practicable), provided the rules of your fund also let you withdraw your super.

Important: Although the broader super rules may permit early access, some super funds don’t permit access to super benefits where an individual has applied on severe financial hardship grounds or compassionate grounds. You will need to check with your super fund whether your fund allows early access on these grounds.

The Conditions of Release under the superannuation rules are

  1. Retirement
  2. Aged from 60 years to 64 years and cease employment
  3. Reach the age of 65
  4. Decision to start a transition-to-retirement pension (TRIP)
  5. Preserved amount is less than $200
  6. Cease employment and have certain pre-1999 super benefits
  7. Severe financial hardship
  8. Compassionate grounds
  9. Terminal medical condition
  10. Temporary resident leaves Australia permanently
  11. Permanent disability or permanent incapacity
  12. Temporary incapacity
  13. Death
  14. Decision to take your benefit as a lifetime pension or annuity

1. Retirement

Retirement is the most common condition of release. You can retire when you have reached your preservation age AND you retire. Preservation age now ranges from age 56 to 60 years, depending on date of birth – refer table earlier in this article. Your super fund will usually require a retirement declaration verifying that you have retired. The following SuperGuide articles help explain what ‘retirement’ means when accessing super benefits, and also what happens if you decide to return to work:

2. Aged from 60 years to 64 years, and cease employment

There is a special ‘retirement’ rule for individuals aged 60 or over who cease an employment arrangement. A relatively unknown sub-category of the ‘retirement’ condition of release is where a person is aged 60 or over but under the age of 65 and they cease an employment arrangement, they can be considered ‘retired’. In these circumstances, the person can be considered ‘retired’ for the purposes of accessing super, even though they have no intention of retiring, and they may return to work. If an employment arrangement continues however, then turning 60 on its own is not considered a condition of release. See also condition of release No 3 (Reach the age of 65). The following SuperGuide articles explain how this exception works:

3. Reach the age of 65

As soon as you reach the age of 65, you can withdraw your entire superannuation benefit (if you wish), even when you haven’t retired from the workforce, but you don’t have to. The following SuperGuide articles help explain why you can access your super benefits when you reach the age of 65, even if you choose to continue working:

4. Decision to start a transition-to-retirement pension (TRIP)

You can access a portion of your benefit each year by starting a super pension without retiring, provided that you’ve reached your preservation age (55 years if born before July 1960, or from 56 to 60 years, if born after June 1960) and you withdraw no more than 10 per cent of your account balance as a pension payment/s each year. In nearly all cases, the TRIP is non-commutable, that is, you cannot convert your pension account to a lump sum payment. The following SuperGuide articles help explain how a transition-to-retirement pension (TRIP) works:

5. Preserved amount of super benefits is less than $200

You can access your preserved benefit if you leave a job where your employer was contributing to your fund on your behalf, and the preserved superannuation benefit is less than $200.

Note: The super laws also allow a super benefit that is less than $200 to be withdrawn where, the super account is considered to be owned by a lost member, the account is subsequent found by the fund member, and the value of the super benefit when released is less than $200 (for more information on lost super, see SuperGuide article Find lost super in 5 steps, and make quick cash).

6. Cease employment and have certain pre-1999 super benefits

If you’ve been a member of a super fund since before 1 July 1999, you can cash your ‘restricted non-preserved benefit’ (certain benefits accumulated up to 30 June 1999) only when you cease employment with your employer, who has been your employer since before July 1999. A restricted benefit is a special category of super benefit that Australians may hold, but only if they were super fund members before 1 July 1999, and even then, they may not hold such benefits. The following SuperGuide article explains how this exception works: Unrestricted access to super, sometimes

7. Severe financial hardship

If you fall on hard times, you may be able to get some of your superannuation back if you satisfy the special conditions that constitute the government’s view of ‘severe financial hardship’. The trustee of your fund may give you access to a portion of your benefit, subject to certain conditions. In general terms, here are the rules:

a. You have been receiving Commonwealth Government income support, for example, unemployment benefits, for at least 26 weeks, continuously, and the trustee of your super fund is satisfied that you can’t meet immediate reasonable family expenses. Any payment is for the purposes of meeting everyday living expenses and can be one payment of no more than $10,000 (including tax) in any 12-month period.

b. If you’ve reached your preservation age (from age 55 to 60, depending on date of birth), you may be able to receive your entire superannuation benefit provided that you’ve been in receipt of government income support for at least 39 weeks.

The following SuperGuide articles help explain some of the scenarios that may fall within the special condition of ‘severe financial hardship’, and also circumstances that fall outside the rules:

8. Compassionate grounds

Before you retire, your super fund can release, part or all of your preserved benefits if you’re suffering a life-threatening illness, or trying to prevent the bank selling your home because of overdue loan repayments. You can also apply for early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds to pay for funeral or medical expenses, or palliative care. If you, or one of your dependants, is severely disabled, you can apply to access your super if this disability requires your home or car to be modified due to the disability. First, contact your fund to find out whether it permits early release of any preserved benefits. If your fund does permit this type of early access, you can then apply to the Department of Human Services ( for early release of your preserved benefit on compassionate grounds. The following SuperGuide articles help explain some of the scenarios that may fall within the special condition of ‘compassionate grounds’, and also circumstances that fall outside the rules:

9. Terminal medical condition

If you suffer a terminal medical condition as defined by the super laws, you will be able to access your super benefits early. In addition, you won’t have to pay any benefits tax on those benefits. ‘Terminal medical condition’ has a specific definition, as defined in the super laws. A “terminal medical condition exists in relation to a person at a particular person if the following circumstances exist:

(a)  Two registered medical practitioners have certified jointly or separately, that the person suffers from an illness, or has incurred an injury, that is likely to result in the death of the person within a period (the ‘certification period’) that ends not more than 24 months after the date of the certification;

(b)  At least one of the registered medical practitioners is a specialist practising in an area related to the illness or injury suffered by the person

(c)  For each of the certificates, the certification period has not ended

For more detail on this condition of release, see the following SuperGuide articles:

If you’re suffering a serious illness, or a family member is suffering a serious illness, also check out condition of release no 8 (compassionate grounds).

10. Temporary resident leaves Australia permanently

If you’re a non-resident of Australia, you can access your Australian superannuation benefit when you permanently leave Australia. You’re a non-resident if you enter Australia on an eligible temporary resident visa. Note that, under this specific condition, if you are an Australian and New Zealand citizen, or a permanent resident of Australia, or you hold a retirement visa, then you cannot access your super benefits when you leave Australia permanently, although New Zealand citizens may be able to transfer Australian super benefits to a KiwiSaver account. The following SuperGuide articles help explain who is eligible (and who is not eligible) to access super benefits when they depart Australia permanently:

11. Permanent disability or permanent incapacity

If you suffer chronic illness or serious disability you may be able to claim on a total and permanent disability insurance policy that may be attached to your super account. Check with your super fund for the terms and conditions of any insurance policy. Under the super rules, you can also access your super benefits early if you’re suffering ‘permanent incapacity’, which has a special definition. You can access your preserved super benefits if you become permanently incapacitated, that is, the trustee of your super fund is satisfied that, due to ill health, you’re unlikely ever to be able to work in a job for which you’re reasonably qualified by education, training or experience. For more information on permanent disability or permanent incapacity see the following SuperGuide articles:

12. Temporary incapacity

Your fund may automatically provide income protection insurance, or you may be able to apply for such insurance via your superannuation fund. If you suffer prolonged illness or disability you can claim on this insurance cover and receive a regular income, usually for up to two years. For more information, see SuperGuide articles:

13. Death

If you die, your superannuation fund pays your death benefit to your estate, or to your spouse or other dependants. The following SuperGuide articles help explain what happens to your super benefits if you die:

14. Decision to take your benefit as lifetime pension or annuity

Provided you take your super as a non-commutable lifetime pension or annuity, you can access your super at any age. A non-commutable lifetime pension or annuity is one that you receive for your lifetime and which you can’t convert to a lump sum amount. Typically, this lifetime pension option is only available in older public sector super funds.


  1. Australians are so brainwashed most think it’s ok for our government to take our hard earned money any time there is a financial crisis, thieving (edited).
    More “insurance is a good thing” lies.
    Let me invest my money I earn where I like with out government imposed restrictions.

  2. Kerry Roberts says:

    I have super with a reputable super fund ,
    I had to have an operation for a double spinal fusion and rang the comp. to find out a)if I had insurance protection as part of my policy.
    B) how to apply for it
    After having my operation and meeting the 60 day waiting period I applied for this insurance .

    After not hearing from them for a while I rang them to find out what was happening with it and was told that they needed more info but that they should be able to process it and get some money for me shortly to help my financial situation .
    Well after a full year of phone calls and being told that the insurance co.needed. More info from the dr. I was finally told that they were regecting my application as I wasn’t working for a min of 30 hours per week and no one believed that I was capable of doing the work I was doing for the past 6 years with such a servier back problem .
    I was left financially stuffed and mentally drained with Ansiety issues
    Great eye gotta love insurance company’s

  3. This is good to know may need to withdrawn small part of super for financial reasons I am almost 69 and I am still work 30 hours a f night part time and and have a super fund having a bit of a financial crisis at moment.At present it’s an option for me

  4. Amanda Elkins says:

    My Husband needs very expensive dental work estimated at$$25000.00 . He had very intense chemo and radiation treatment which ultimately destroyed his saliva glads and crumbled his teeth. The after cancer care funding is gone due to people abusing the funding with fake illnesses and we really dont have that money? I cant see what umbrella we might fall under to get early access to his super for this painfull and uncomfortable situation my hubby is in??

    • Hi Amanda
      Very sorry to hear about your troubles.
      It may be possible to access super on compassionate grounds. For more information, see our article on the topic:
      The SuperGuide Team

  5. its a joke how we cannot have access to our super, which is our own money, at needed times of genuine struggle. Yes.. times have changed, but only because the goverment has made it harder for the everyday person to get through these difficult times and if we are all stuck, why not have access to an amount out of our super to get by.
    Nobody can predict from now til we reach the age to have access to our super, on what our circumstances are whether we are dead or alive.
    Only thing certain is the goverment hopes you haven’t sorted out your will or super when you pass so they can get there grubby hands on it.

    • I agree tenfold. It is absolutely disgusting, especially since the retirement age is going up and up!! 🙁 🙁 🙁

  6. Michael Jeffrey says:

    You should be able to access it when it hits say $100K for the soul purpose of putting it down on your mortgage. Have it monitored – people can’t gamble it or buy a car with it… Why not? It’s all for ‘YOUR NEST EGG’ apparently! What better nest egg than that have you gaining wealth off your property etc…

  7. Paul Ferguson says:

    Hi All Australians and the Superguide.. The Liberal Government is going to kill us before we reach our retirement age.. Not only have they removed a carbon tax to make the rich richer but also they have then started on kicking the poor and lower socioeconomic majority. We all as Australians have put into our Super for our long term, this does not mean that for me Im at a loss but for many people the control over our ability to access our monies has been denied by the classic LIBERAL ideology, rich get richer and poor can pay for everything. What about the basis that Parliamentarians have such great resources after they leave. get ousted out of government, gave it a go.. IN the TRUE meaning of the australian multicultural way.. No They have their pensions, cars transport office all payed by us low life who cant access our super. May Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott and all the liberals not be able to access their entitlements as parliamentarians until 100. Regards to all us poor soldiers. the leaders stink. Paul Ferguson Doonan QLD

    • I agree mate. Why is it that parliamentarians can access a pension as soon as they leave office and is based on a percentage of their wage tied to inflation when the rest of us have to wait until we are almost dead and lose cars, housing etc. Can you guys explain why there is such a disparity?

      Steve (Now living in Thailand)

  8. There seem to be alot of rules and regulations about early release, provided you have been getting income support for at least “such n such” number of weeks.

    However, as a New Zealander, who is only a resident here. I am not applicable for such benefits, and so working is my ONLY source of income. If I hurt or injure myself, and I cant work.. I cant get any assistance from the government here. Cause they don’t see me as a Permanent Resident, just a Resident… and there is a huge difference.

    I work full time, pay the same as an Australian Citizen via the ATO, Super is the same when being contributed into my account.. however, early release for New Zealanders doesnt allow equal qualification.

    How can I be on Centre Link for however long, If Im not even allowed to be considered to have it? Therefore, afew of these “early release conditions”, can not apply to me. Seems very bias!

    New Zealanders make up a huge percentage of the Australian Work force.. I know, Ive been here for 10 years+ and its really not fair. Kiwis earn the same, pay the ATO the same, pay the same rent, mortages, etc… but if we ever needed assistance from the Australian Government, its a lot of red tape to go through, and there is still no guarantee that any help will be given.

    Anyways.. Trans-Tasman agreement or not. I think that these Superannuation Products should be reviewed for New Zealanders. You cant make us work like an Citizen and then make half the policies work for us.

    • Yeah Dazza, seems the Australian Govt like to interchange the word ‘temporary’ and ‘permanent’ as it suits them when it comes to NZ residents……when you have to pay them (ie income tax) – you’re classed as ‘permanent’ but God forbid you sustain an injury or some other life predicament, because, mate, you’re only a ‘temporary’ resident then, and you’ll be on your own, despite having paid equal taxes for years and years – to me it’s like paying an insurance premium for something with zero benefits in the case of an ‘event’ – totally unfair.

      I wanted to retire early and move overseas, thought about moving my aussie super funds to a Kiwisaver and then accessing them after a year of being away from NZ (you can do this under NZ rules) but alas any portion of ‘Australian funds’ in a Kiwisaver have to follow the ‘Australian rules’ ie no access until preservation age.

  9. hi i was wondering if i can get my super to get my roof fixed i own my house ive been on benifits for a year and now foster my grandchild
    the roof leeks i am unable to get a loan or morgage i have back problems and had a major heart attack last year do you think i have aney chance

  10. Im leaving Australia to live in indonesia, how difficult will it be for me to access the funds inn my super and does this mean I lose my citizenship?

  11. Hi I’ve been unemployed for 12 months and I need all my teeth pulled out and false one’s put in new ones and I have four kids and me and my partner r living at our parents house cause I can’t find work can I get my super out and use that money to fix my teeth get a car and a house I don’t get centrelink

  12. HI,

    I retired and cashed in some of my supper and later went back to work. what is the penalty for going back to work

  13. Vic Dunstan says:

    Hi Trish,
    I appreciate your articles. I am a 47 (born 1966) yo caucasion male. I have three Superannuation funds. Two State funds and One Federal Fund. The total amount of the funds are around $200,000. Am I able to start a self managed fund, withdraw the Super from my current accounts and purchase a property and rent it out?

    I would appreciate your response. Kind regards,


  14. I am applying for a Australia Pension. I have an allocated pension with approx $95,000 from which I draw $1600 per month. Can I pass this entire amount to my wife to enable me to get a pension, or just reduce the amount the amount I withdraw each month to the minimum. Is an allocated pension treated differently to money in the bank?

  15. hi ! would you be able to tell me if i can access ,say 10% of my super due to fininicial hardship i am 55 years of age and if i am able to how do i go about accessing the funds available . thank
    ks for any feedback

  16. Just wondering whether it is possible to access super to start our own small business? My husband has been unemployed off and on ( mostly off) for the last 12 months and due to the area where we live, employment is difficult to come by. I work full time and according to Centrelink, I earn too much for my husband to be elligible for unemployment or else he only gets about $14 per f/n. However, we are still struggling to make ends meet. There is an opportunity to start our own small business and we have every reason to believe that the business will succeed however we are in need of capital. Is accessing super possible?

    • hi Kristina

      how did you go with this i am in the same position looking to use my super and my wifes super to start up a business

      your help and experience would be greatly appreciated

  17. Natalie Harris says:

    Dear Trish,
    I’ve been working in the mines for the past 2 years and have an ok looking super
    I’m sorry to say this about myself but I’ve always been pretty bad with money and I stopped paying my car payments about 6 months when I went through some extreme changes in my life.
    I meant to catch back up but somehow just got lost in the big hole I had dug myself.
    how ever I recently just lost my job, and two days later received a repo guy turn up for my car.
    So I now have no income and my means for transport are about to disappear
    is there any way I could possibly access some of my super to pay what’s owed and to tie me over with bills till I get anther job ?

    • (Moderated) I can tell you accessing your super isn’t going to happen because this falls outside every reason to access your super especially on compassionate grounds. the best thing for you is to let the repo guys take your car you apply for other jobs, put your head down when you get another job and save, save, save. Get good debt next time, by buying a house or land.

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