Ask Paul: I have breast cancer, can I access my super?
I have just turned 58 and my husband is 59. We have two dependent sons and are both working, with $200,000 remaining on our mortgage.
I work four days a week and, as I am the primary earner, we are not in a financial position for me to stop work so I can access my superannuation.
Three years ago, I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. I would now like to access my super to enjoy my remaining years without needing to work full-time.
I don't have income insurance. It's my understanding that I'm unable to retire until age 67, or to transition to retirement until age 60.
For the limited number of people in my position, it seems unfair that we are not able to access our super to enjoy our final years without needing to work.
Do you have any advice to help me from a financial perspective? - Tanya
Your question is not one that is easy to answer, Tanya.
As we all know, and I have said more times than I can remember, money gives us choices, which is great, but our own health and the health of those we love is the primary issue.
I have loved ones around me who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and it is unlikely that any of us would not know someone in this situation.
I really do appreciate that breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter, is a personal journey. Much is dependent on so many factors that come with a cancer diagnosis, but being diagnosed with stage four breast cancer three years ago is a serious issue.
Thank you for asking me to comment from a financial perspective, which I do know a bit about.
Access to your super is not likely to be an issue for you. You should talk to your fund about your situation. As you have recently turned 58, I agree with you that your birth date would most likely mean your "preservation age" is 60.
But with your cancer, this may be far too long a time to wait to access super. I am sure you will have looked at any sick leave available to you from your employer.
First, you can talk to your super fund about "compassionate grounds" to access your super. This can cover medical treatment, home loan repayments and unpaid expenses.
The next option is not easy to discuss.
But if two doctors, one being a specialist, were to consider that your prognosis is likely death within two years, you can access your super tax free. If you have total and permanent disability (TPD) in your super fund, this may also release that payment.
From a financial perspective, these are likely to be your two best options to access super early.
But with the huge strides being made with cancer treatments, my hope, of course, is that using compassionate grounds to access super may provide you with money to assist your current costs and then you can access super as you reach your preservation age and retirement.
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