Financial hardship

The purpose of super is to help you save money for your retirement. Generally you cannot withdraw your super in cash before you reach your preservation age, which is between age 55 and 60, depending on your date of birth. For more information see accessing your super.

There are, however, some limited circumstances in which you can access part of your super early in cases of severe financial hardship or on compassionate grounds.

By law, there are strict eligibility guidelines about releasing super under these conditions as summarised below.

Please call SuperPhone on 1300 360 373 for more information before applying.

Severe financial hardship

A minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $10,000 (before tax) in any 12-month period can be released from your preserved super if the Trustee accepts your claim for financial hardship. Only one payment can be made in any 12-month period. Any benefit payable is subject to tax if you are under age 60.

If requesting an early release of your super based on severe financial hardship you must:

  • Provide proof of financial hardship - documentary evidence to satisfy the Trustee that you are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses (i.e. due and payable at the time of your application, as future expenses will generally not be considered unless it is an urgent expense payable in the immediate future).
  • Provide information about any assets you have that could reasonably be sold to meet your expenses (excluding your home).
  • Be receiving Commonwealth income support payments and have been receiving such support, continuously, for the last 26 weeks if you’re under your preservation age.* Eligible payments include service pensions, social security pensions, income support supplements and some drought relief payments. Payments that are not eligible include parenting allowance, family payments or Austudy/Abstudy or other youth allowance payments in relation to full-time study. If you’re older than your preservation age and you’ve been continuously receiving eligible payments for at least 39 weeks since reaching that age, you need only declare that you’re not gainfully employed at the time of making a request. You do not need to provide proof of financial hardship.

Release of benefits on compassionate grounds

Compassionate grounds may be considered for early release of your super. You may qualify if you have to:

  • Pay for medical or dental treatment (or transport to that treatment) for you or your dependant - where at least two medical practitioners (including one specialist) certify that the illness or injury is life threatening or you are suffering acute or chronic pain or mental illness, and the treatment is not readily available through the public health system.
  • Pay arrears on the mortgage on your home to prevent foreclosure on the mortgage or your home being sold by your lender, in which case an amount approximately equal to three months of mortgage repayments may be released.
  • Modify your home or vehicle to accommodate special needs due to a severe disability affecting you or your dependant.
  • Pay for expenses associated with palliative care for a terminal illness suffered by you or your dependant, and there are other grounds for early release for people with terminal illness.
  • Pay for expenses associated with your dependant’s death, funeral or burial.

Your application will also need to demonstrate that you do not have the financial capacity to meet the expenses by other means, such as from savings, health insurance or workers' compensation. More information on compassionate grounds is available from the Commonwealth Department of Human Services (DHS) website.

The DHS is responsible for considering applications to access your superannuation early on compassionate grounds. The DHS may also impose limits on the amount that can be released from your preserved super.