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Severe financial hardship

Superannuation is designed to help you save for your retirement, so the Australian Government has applied rules around when and how you can access it. Normally you cannot access your super until you reach your preservation age.

However, withdrawing your super earlier may be possible under special circumstances such as if you're experiencing Severe financial hardship. To be eligible you need to meet qualifying requirements, including:

  • you have been receiving eligible Australian Commonwealth income support payments1 (e.g. JobSeeker, Age Pension) for specific timeframes, and,
  • you are not able to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses such as rent, groceries, or utility bills, and
  • you have been a member of Sunsuper for 6 months or more.

We understand that experiencing Severe financial hardship is a very stressful time, so our aim is to review and process your application as quickly as possible.

1. Please note not all Australian Commonwealth income support payments are eligible for a Severe Financial Hardship claim, such as Austudy and Family Assistance payments from Services Australia (formerly DHS). Contact the source of your payments, such as Services Australia, to check if your payments are eligible before proceeding.

COVID-19 and early access to your super

Please note, if you are experiencing financial stress as a result of COVID-19, you may be able to access your super.

Important to consider:

  • You will need to pay tax on Severe financial hardship payments if applicable (up to 22% provided that we have your TFN).
  • You will NOT need to pay tax on COVID-19 Early release of super payments (provided that we have your TFN), and the money you withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans' Affairs payments.

Am I eligible?

There are two claim types for Severe financial hardship, so first you'll need to work out which type(s) you could apply for.

The two claim types are based on your age and whether you've reached preservation age.

If you're:

  • under 55 years, then you're under preservation age
  • between 55 - 60 years, then you may have reached preservation age - check your preservation age
  • over 60 years, then you're over preservation age

So, if you're:

  • under preservation age, you'll need to apply for claim type 1.
  • over preservation age, go to claim type 2. Note, you could also apply for claim type 1 if you don't meet the criteria for claim type 2.

Claim type 1 – You're under preservation age

Am I eligible?

  • You're under preservation age
    (or you're over preservation age but don't meet the criteria for claim type 2), and
  • You've received eligible Australian Commonwealth income support payments1 for a continuous period of no less than 26 weeks, and
  • You're in receipt of such payments within the last 21 days of the date Sunsuper receives your application for early release of your benefit, and
  • You're unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses, and
  • You have not received a benefit from Sunsuper or any other fund for Severe financial hardship in the past 12 months, and
  • Your net assets do not exceed $50,000, and
  • You've been a member of Sunsuper for at least 6 months.

If you're not eligible to apply for Severe financial hardship you may want to consider, other options for accessing your super early, or other ways to get financial support, or contact us to discuss your situation.

1. Please note not all Australian Commonwealth income support payments are eligible for a Severe Financial Hardship claim, such as Austudy and Family Assistance payments from Services Australia (formerly DHS). Contact the source of your payments, such as Services Australia, to check if your payments are eligible before proceeding.

How much can I claim?

There are some payment restrictions that apply to the amount you can claim. In addition, applicable taxes (up to 22% provided that we have your TFN) will be deducted from the benefit paid, so you could receive a less than the amount you apply for.

  • Maximum of $10,000 before tax in any 12-month period.
  • Minimum of $1,000 before tax in any 12-month period, or total balance if under $1,000.

Please also know than an early release of super may reduce your Centrelink payments or impact the amount of child support you receive or pay. Contact Services Australia for more information.

What documents do I need?

You'll need to gather these documents to support your claim.

  • Your Services Australia (formerly DHS) Customer Reference Number (CRN).
    Your CRN is usually on letters you've received from Centrelink or on your Centrelink concession card.
  • A bank or credit union document (e.g. statement or online statement) showing your BSB, account number, account name and address. This cannot be more than 12 months old.
  • Identification documents (these will differ between our paper form and online form).
  • We may request for you to supply proof of outstanding payments and expenses such as overdue notices and bills that are no more than 30 days old.
  • Any other documents to support your application.

Claim type 2 – You're over preservation age

Important to understand

You are able to withdraw your super (without claiming Severe financial hardship) when you've reached:

Am I eligible?

  • You've reached preservation age, and
  • you've received eligible Australian Commonwealth income support payments1 for a cumulative period of no less than 39 weeks since reaching preservation age, and
  • You were unemployed or employed for less than 10 hours per week at the date of your application for early release of your benefit.
  • You've been a member of Sunsuper for at least 6 months.

Note, if you'e over preservation age and don't meet the criteria for claim type 2 – you can apply for claim type 1.

If you're not eligible to apply for Severe financial hardship you may want to consider, other options for accessing your super early, or other ways to get financial support, or contact us to discuss your situation.

1. Please note not all Australian Commonwealth income support payments are eligible for a Severe Financial Hardship claim, such as Austudy and Family Assistance payments from Services Australia (formerly DHS). Contact the source of your payments, such as Services Australia, to check if your payments are eligible before proceeding.

How much can I claim?

There is no restriction on the claim amount. The maximum amount is limited to your account balance. In addition, applicable taxes (up to 17% provided that we have your TFN) may be deducted from the benefit paid, so you could receive a less than the amount you apply for.

Please also know than an early release of super may reduce your Centrelink payments or impact the amount of child support you receive or pay. Contact Services Australia for more information.

What documents do I need?

You'll need to gather these documents to support your claim.

  • Your Services Australia (formerly DHS) Customer Reference Number (CRN).
    Your CRN is usually on letters you've received from Centrelink or on your Centrelink concession card.
  • A bank or credit union document (e.g. statement or online statement) showing your BSB, account number, account name and address. This cannot be more than 12 months old.
  • Identification documents (these will differ between our paper form and online form).
  • Any other documents to support your application.

How to apply

There are two ways to apply for Severe financial hardship:

  • Log into Member Online and complete the Access your super online application form (quickest option)
    • Our online application form will pre-validate whether you qualify for claim type 1 or 2 and ask you questions relevant to that claim type for you to quickly verify your eligibility.
  • Call us on 13 11 84 for assistance to help lodge your application over-the-phone.

Steps involved

You will need to:

  1. Check if you're eligible
  2. Gather required documentation
  3. Submit your application

Then we will:

  1. Validate your eligibility with Services Australia using your Customer Reference Number (CRN).
  2. Validate your identity
  3. Assess your application
  4. Notify you of the outcome
  5. Deposit funds into your nominated account (if eligible)

How long will it take?

We aim to process all applications within 3-5 working days of receiving all the required information. In busy periods this may take longer.

Processing times may also vary based depending on:

  • If we need to discuss your claim with you.
  • If we need to request additional supporting evidence.

Before you apply

  • Do you have other super?
    If you have money with more than one super fund, you may want to find and combine your super before applying for Severe financial hardship – especially as you can only apply once in any 12 month period. Combining your super is usually quick and easy to do (usually takes 3 - 6 days) and can be done online.
  • Do you have insurance cover with your account?
    If you do, and want to maintain your insurance cover in your Sunsuper account, you'll need to ensure there is enough money to pay for any future insurance premiums and you will need to make at least one eligible contribution every 12 months or advise us in writing via Keep my insurance online form that you wish to retain your insurance cover. For more information about when insurance cover stops refer to your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).

Financial support

You may want to consider these options for financial support:

  • National Debt Helpline – Free financial counselling
    Not-for-profit service that helps people in Australia tackle their debt problems.
  • Crisis and special help – Australian Government support information
    Help if you're in Severe financial hardship, recovering from a disaster, or need special assistance.