Accessing Super in Times of Financial Hardship

Your superannuation is designed to provide for your retirement.  Access to the money prior to retirement is generally quite difficult but there are provisons to enable release of all or some benefits in the event of death, illness or hardship. 

The Conditions of Release include the following:

  • Death

  • This is self explanatory.  There are no cashing restrictions upon death and the benefit must be cashed as soon as practicable after the death of the member. 

Permanent Incapacity

  • Physical or mental ill health where the trustee is reasonably satisfied the member is unlikely to engage in gainful employment for which the member is reasonably qualified by education, training or experience. There is no cashing restriction.

A Terminal Medical Condition

  • An illness or injury that is likely to result in death within 12 months of certification date. There is no cashing restriction.

Severe Financial Hardship

  • Where the Trustee is satisfied that the member has been continuously been on Commonwealth income support payments for 26 weeks and is unable to meet reasonable and immediate living expenses OR the member has reached age 55 and 39 weeks and has been receiving Commonwealth income support for a cumulative period of 39 weeks and is not gainfully employed for at least 10 hours per week.  Depending upon the definition the amount paid can vary between $1,000 and the entire benefit.

Compassionate grounds

  • Upon application to the regulator benefits may be released to pay for medical treatment or transport, make loan repayments to prevent foreclosure of the principal residence, to modify the residence to cater for severe disability needs or to meet palliative care expenses.  A single lump sum can be paid as determined by the regulator.

Temporary incapacity

  • Physical or mental ill health that has caused the member to cease employment but does not constitute permanent incapacity.  Benefits may be accessed as a non-commutable income stream for the period of incapacity

There are technical issues that must be considered with each of the above conditions so its important to seek professional advice if considering making a claim for release of superannuation benefits.


The information in this document reflects our understanding of existing legislation, proposed legislation, rulings etc as at the date of issue. In some cases the information has been provided to us by third parties. While it is believed the information is accurate and reliable, this is not guaranteed in any way. Any advice in this publication is of a general nature only and has not been tailored to your personal circumstances. Please seek personal advice prior to acting on this information.