05 December, 2022

Your super questions answered – Can I access my super early to help pay my bills?

Avril from Hobart asks: A mate told me I can access my super early to help pay my bills. Is she right?

With the rising cost of living, many Australians are struggling to pay bills, and with Christmas just around the corner, we could all use some extra cash. But is your super the place you should be looking for short-term relief?

To answer your question, we first need to understand why we have super.

Super is a compulsory savings and investment scheme designed to ensure hard-working Australians have enough money in retirement. Each pay, your employer must put some money into your super fund, and your super fund invests that money to help it grow over time.

If all goes well, your super balance will grow throughout your working life, so you have enough to enjoy a financially secure retirement.

Because super is all about saving for retirement, there are strict rules about how and when you can access it.

Generally, you can only access your super once you’ve:

  • stopped working and reached your preservation age (between 55 and 60, depending on when you were born) or
  • reached age 65 or
  • met some other condition of release

So, can you access your super to pay bills? Generally, no.

That said, there are some specific circumstances where you can access your super early. However, it should be noted that these are usually for financial hardship or under compassionate grounds where accessing your super is absolutely necessary.

Some examples include:

  • severe financial hardship — if you can’t meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses AND you have received eligible government income support payments for 26 consecutive weeks with no breaks
  • compassionate grounds (covers situations such as making a payment on a home loan or council rates so you don’t lose your home)
  • terminal medical condition
  • permanent or temporary incapacity due to illness and/or injury
  • you are a temporary resident departing Australia
  • you have a super balance under $200 and have ceased employment with your employer or
  • are using the First home super saver scheme

It’s important to know, depending on your circumstances, that you may have to pay tax on your withdrawal.

Who decides if you can access your super early?

It isn’t always your super fund that decides if you can access your super early. It’s up to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to assess applications for early release of super on compassionate grounds.

Things to consider

While accessing your super early is sometimes necessary, it isn’t something you should do lightly.

Accessing your super early will mean you have less later. This may seem obvious, but the power of super is that it grows through compound interest. So, the more time your super can grow, the bigger your balance will potentially get.

So, while taking out a few thousand now might not seem like a big deal, you’re also taking away that money’s ability to earn returns. This could significantly reduce your super balance in the long run and affect your overall retirement lifestyle.

Regardless of how and when you access your super, we recommend you get advice from a qualified financial planner before making a withdrawal from your super. Find out how.

If you are experiencing financial hardship, the National Debt Helpline provides free, confidential, and independent support. To speak with a financial counsellor, call 1800 007 007.

For more information, read our Early access to super fact sheet.

Advice on Spirit Super is provided by Quadrant First Pty Ltd (ABN 78 102 167 877, AFSL 284443) and issuer is Motor Trades Association of Australia Superannuation Fund Pty Ltd (ABN 14 008 650 628, AFSL 238718), the trustee of Spirit Super (ABN 74 559 365 913). Consider the PDS and TMD at before making a decision. A copy of the Financial services guide for Spirit Super Advice is available at
This article is for general information only and doesn’t take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should assess your financial position, personal objectives and needs before making a decision based on this information.