Note: This article explains at what age you can access your superannuation benefits. If you are seeking information on when you can claim the Age Pension, see SuperGuide article Age Pension age increasing to 67 years.
We receive hundreds of questions each year asking when you can retire under the superannuation rules (and in turn access super benefits), and any special conditions you need to meet before you can take your super benefits.
The key concept that every Australian needs to be aware of in terms of superannuation, and accessing super benefits, is ‘preservation age’, which is the minimum age at which you can access your super benefits (assuming you have also retired). Note that preservation age is different from ‘Age Pension age’.
For many Australians, these retirement terms sound like another language and many people do get confused between their Age Pension age, and their preservation age. Your preservation age is the minimum age that you can access your super when you are retiring, and can be age 55, or 56, or 57, or 58, or 59, or age 60. Continue reading this article to discover your preservation age.
While your Age Pension age is the age that you first become eligible to claim the Age Pension. Your Age Pension age can be 65 years, or 65.5, 66, 66.5, or 67 years, depending on your date of birth. For more information on your Age Pension age see SuperGuide articles Age Pension age now 65.5 years (since July 2017) and Age Pension age increasing to 67 years.
Background politics: The former federal treasurer, Joe Hockey, spooked the electorate by announcing a proposed increase in the Age Pension age to 70 years (which did not receive support from parliament, and did not become law). In the past, Hockey also threatened to lift the preservation age for accessing superannuation benefits. Note that the ALP opposition has drawn a line in the sand and stated that it will not support the Age Pension age increasing beyond age 67 (as currently legislated), and the preservation age will not change. Also note that it was the former ALP government which introduced the higher Age Pension age of 67 for those born on or after a certain age.
Why is your preservation age important?
Your preservation age is the age at which you can retire and access your superannuation benefits. Your preservation age is different to your Age Pension age.
Your preservation age may be 55, 56, 57, 58, 59 or 60 years, depending on your date of birth. Reaching your preservation age (and retiring) means you can access your preserved superannuation benefits. Most Australians have only preserved super benefits (see table later in the article to work out your preservation age, or use the SuperGuide Retirement Age Reckoner.
If you have some super benefits that are known as non-preserved super benefits, then slightly different rules apply (for more information on non-preserved benefits see SuperGuide article Unrestricted access to super, sometimes).
Note: In practical terms, a preservation age of 55 years was only available until 30 June 2015 (for those born before 1 July 1960, and who turned 55 in the 12 months before July 1960), although the preservation age of 55 extended beyond that date (until those born before July 1960 turned 56 years). Anyone born on or after 1 July 1960 (those turning 55 on or after 1 July 2015) has a preservation age of at least 56 years, and anyone born on or after 1 July 1961 (those turning 55 on or after 1 July 2016) has a preservation age of at least 57 years. See table below.
Under normal circumstances, accessing your super benefits requires you to meet two conditions:
- Reaching your preservation age
- Retiring from the workforce
Note: If you were a member of a super fund before 1999, then you may have some unpreserved benefits. Unpreserved benefits are officially known as ‘restricted non-preserved benefits’ (certain type of super benefits that you access when terminate employment) and ‘unrestricted non-preserved benefits’ (can be accessed at any time). For more information on non-preserved benefits see SuperGuide article Unrestricted access to super, sometimes).
Identifying your preservation age
Preservation age ranges from age 55 to 60 years, depending on your date of birth. If you were born before July 1960, then your preservation age is 55. If you were born on or after 1 July 1964, then your preservation age is 60 years. If you were born after June 1960 and before July 1964, then your preservation age will be 56, 57, 58 or 59 years (see Tables 1 and 2 below, or use our SuperGuide Retirement Age Reckoner).
If an individual has reached his or her preservation age, and then retires, he or she can withdraw any preserved super benefits. Remember, tax may be payable on any super benefits withdrawn before the age of 60. I explain the tax rules when withdrawing benefits before age 60 in the SuperGuide article Retiring before the age of 60: the tax deal.
Political background: Previously, the Liberal government has indicated it hopes to eventually lift the preservation age. Industry speculation at the time was that preservation age would be increased so it would be 5 years earlier than your Age Pension age. For example, if you were born after June 1964, currently your preservation age is 60 years, and continues to be so into the foreseeable future. Your Age Pension is 67 years. Potentially, if the Liberals did revisit this policy, and they were able to persuade the parliament, your preservation age is speculated to increase to 62 years (rather than the current 60 years), 5 years earlier than your Age Pension age. Note that this potential increase in preservation age is officially not on the political agenda at the moment. For more information on the Age Pension age, see SuperGuide articles Age Pension age increasing to 67 years and Australia not ready for Age Pension age of 70 years.
Reminder: Currently, the maximum preservation age remains at 60 years, and the maximum Age Pension age remains at 67 years.
Accessing super: What is your preservation age?
|Date of birth||Your preservation age|
|Before 1 July 1960||55|
|From 1 July 1960 until 30 June 1961||56|
|From 1 July 1961 until 30 June 1962||57|
|From 1 July 1962 until 30 June 1963||58|
|From 1 July 1963 until 30 June 1964||59|
|On or after 1 July 1964||60|
Source: Source: Adapted from the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Regulations 1994, Regulation 6.01
For more information on how to work out your preservation age, see SuperGuide articles:
- Retirement Age Reckoner: Discover your preservation age and Age Pension age (you can discover your preservation age, and your Age Pension age, and WHEN you will reach those milestones)
- Accessing super: Preservation age moves to 59 years (this article includes a table that lists WHEN you will reach your preservation age)
- Accessing super: Turning 55 or 56 (or 57 or 58) is not enough
What if you want to access your super but don’t want to retire?
If you have reached your preservation age but say, you don’t intend to retire then you must satisfy another condition of release to be able to access your benefits.
Examples of some of the more common conditions of release are:
- starting a transition-to-retirement (TRIP). A TRIP is a special type of income stream/pension that permits an individual to access up to 10% of his or her pension assets each year without retiring, provided the individual has reached preservation age. For more information, see SuperGuide article TRIPs: 10 important facts about transition-to-retirement pensions.
- reaching the age of 65. If you have reached the age of 65, then you can access your super benefits and continue working. The one exception to this rule is where you’re a member of certain defined benefit schemes, and such a scheme may have specific payment and retirement rules that require you to cease work to start receiving a super pension, or lump sum.
- resigning or otherwise leaving a job on or after the age of 60. For more information, see SuperGuide article Does changing to part-time at 60 years, count as ‘retiring’?
Depending on your circumstances, you may also be able to access your super early if you suffer financial hardship, or suffer other extenuating circumstances, such as serious illness or terminal illness. I explain the other conditions of release in the SuperGuide article Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits.
Note: If you withdraw your superannuation before the age of 60, your benefit payment may be subject to tax. For more information, see SuperGuide article Retirement: 3 ways of taking super benefits before the age of 60.