When can I access my SMSF?

The simplest answer to the question of when you can access your Self-Managed Superannuation Fund (SMSF) is when you retire and you are at least 60 years old. But there are other things to consider as well, including some special circumstances that allow the money to be released earlier.

Most people, however, will need to think about the preservation age. Your super fund is preserved until you hit this age, and it is based on when you were born:

  • Born before 1 July 1960 - your preservation age is 55
  • Born between 1 July 1960 and 30 June 1961 - your preservation age is 56
  • Born between 1 July 1961 and 30 June 1962 - your preservation age is 57
  • Born between 1 July 1962 and 30 June 1963 - your preservation age is 58
  • Born between 1 July 1963 and 30 June 1964 - your preservation age is 59
  • Born after 30 June 1964 - your preservation age is 60

Everyone's circumstances are different but some of the most common occurrences for accessing your SMSF are:

  • When you retire and you are 60 or over
  • When you retire and are under 60, but have reached your preservation age
  • When you are transitioning to retirement and have reached your preservation age – note that in this circumstance the money cannot be withdrawn as a lump sum
  • When you are over 65

Special Circumstances To Access SMSF Early

There are special circumstances that apply to some people which allow the money in an SMSF to be accessed early. The most common of these are:

  • Incapacity - if you cannot work any longer because of ill health, you may be able to access your SMSF. You must not be in work, and must be unlikely to be able to work again, because of your condition. Different rules apply if your health condition is temporary - temporary incapacity benefits may be paid. If it is a permanent incapacity, however, there are no restrictions on cashing out your super.
  • Severe financial hardship - you have to meet a number of tests to qualify under this rule for access to your SMSF funds. You must be in receipt of government income support for up to 39 weeks (the exact number of weeks depends on your age), and you must be able to show that you cannot meet your living expenses.
  • Compassionate grounds - this covers a wide range of circumstances, including if you are receiving treatment for a life-threatening illness, you need to pay for palliative care, or you are trying to keep your home from being repossessed.
  • Temporary resident - if you are a temporary resident in Australia and you are leaving the country permanently, you can get access to your SMSF.
  • Terminal illness - if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, you can get access to your SMSF without any restrictions.

The primary purpose of a super fund, however, is to support you financially when you retire. When you are able to access the money it is normally paid as a lump sum, as a monthly income, or a combination of the two.


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