How to access your super early during the coronavirus pandemic
Unemployed or underemployed Australians will be given early access to their superannuation from April.
New measures released over the weekend will now allow people to apply for early access to their super if they are unemployed and or entitled to receive benefits, are made redundant, lose 20% of more of their work hours, or are sole traders who have lost 20% or more of their turnover.
People can apply online through myGov to receive up to $10,000 from their super fund before July 1, 2020.
They will also be able to access a further $10,000 from July 1, 2020, for about three months, depending on the timing of the legislation.
People accessing their super through these hardship provisions will not be taxed on the amounts released, and Centrelink and Veterans Affairs payments will not be affected.
If you are successful, the tax office will notify you and your super fund, which will transfer the money to you.
Separate arrangements will need to be made if you are a member of a self-managed super fund. More information on this will be released in the coming weeks.
As an example of how the payments could work, an event planner might find her work has dried up with cancellations of events and weddings.
With her business turnover down by 20%, she will be eligible to apply for the early release of up to $10,000 of super.
If by June her situation has not improved and she needs to access more money, she will be able to apply for the second payment of up to $10,000.
Accessing super early is not something to be taken lightly, says Multiforte financial adviser Kate McCallum.
"Have you got room on your home loan [to withdraw money for emergencies]? Or for the very, very short term can you maybe use a credit card to tide things over," she says.
Lower your spending
"Now is the time to be very careful of cash-flow, know what you're spending, make sure you're not spending on anything that's unnecessary and don't make rushed decisions," she says.
"When emotions are running high, we're not good at decision making."
McCallum also suggests negotiating with creditors and suppliers, even private schools, to ask what they can offer while you're experiencing hardship.
"If everyone is helping each other out a bit then we can all better sustain our businesses," McCallum says.
Zella director and financial adviser Victoria Devine is concerned Australians may not understand the serious ramifications of withdrawing money meant for their retirement.
"While I think the early release of super is necessary and the government is doing the right thing to help people who are suffering financially through this pandemic not to be so stressed, I don't think it should come without any education at all," Devine says.
"People don't understand how this is going to pan out.
"For someone who is a millennial, if they have early access to their super and take out $20,000, they are putting themselves in a position where they may be sacrificing between $120,000 and $130,000 of their retirement savings.
"People should be trying to make things work and not seeing this as access to cash."
Talk to your bank
Devine suggests people should consider redrawing on their mortgage or renegotiating debt before accessing their super.
"They could be talking to banks; it's a time for banks to step up after the Royal Commission to say they are doing good for the community and good for Australia," Devine says.
Financial Services Council CEO Sally Loane says the rules around accessing your super early were not designed to support members during an emergency such as the coronavirus pandemic.
"Accessing superannuation should not be the default response to providing income support for Australians in need over the short term so we are pleased to see that this is a temporary measure as part of a broader income support package," Loane says.
The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia says early access to retirement savings should only occur under extenuating circumstances and it will work the government to minimise the effect on long-term retirement savings.
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