Q: I have been a member of my super fund from about 1993. I see from your 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits article, that I may be able to access my restricted benefit. You write: “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. A restricted benefit is a special category of super benefit that Australians who were super fund members before 1 July 1999 may hold” Does this mean I can access my super?
A: The term ‘restricted benefit’ is a technical term to describe certain benefits that can be accessed when an individual ceases an employment arrangement.
Briefly, there are two categories of superannuation benefits – ‘preserved’ and ‘non-preserved’. The ‘non-preserved benefits’ are then split into, ‘restricted non-preserved’, and ‘unrestricted non-preserved’.
Unless you were a member of a super fund before July 1999, your super benefits will be preserved, and cannot be accessed until you satisfy a condition of release: see SuperGuide article Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits.
If you were a member of a super fund before July 1999, then, whether you have non-preserved benefits within your super fund, depends on some complicated rules. Generally, any Superannuation Guarantee contributions made since July 1992 are preserved, although some made before July 1994 may not be preserved. If you have made any salary sacrificed contributions before July 1999, then some may be non-preserved depending on the arrangement that was in place.
Tip: The easiest way to check whether you have non-preserved benefits is to look at your latest member statement from your super fund. The statement should state whether you have any non-preserved benefits. If you can’t locate your member statement then contact your super fund and ask them directly.
Now, I’m going to add one more complication. If you do have restricted non-preserved benefits, you can access these benefits when you resign from an employment arrangement. If you have had restricted non-preserved benefits in the past, and ceased employment, then those restricted benefits become unrestricted and can be accessed at any time. You need to check with your super fund whether you have any unrestricted non-preserved benefits.
If you have a portion of your super benefits as ‘unrestricted non-preserved’ benefits, then you can apply to withdraw them from your super fund (without satisfying any other condition of release), less any benefits tax payable.
Most Australians have preserved superannuation benefits, which means the benefits cannot be withdrawn until the fund member reaches preservation age and retires. For more information on preservation age see SuperGuide article Accessing super: What is my preservation age? In certain circumstances, specific exceptions may apply to this general access rule (for more information on these exceptions, see SuperGuide article Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits).