Over the last few months, in the wake of financial hardship and concern during the pandemic and subsequent strain on employment and business, the subject of superannuation access has come up a lot. ‘Dipping’ into superannuation is not a new thing, there are myriad reasons people have opted for this as a solution to financial strain. Superannuation is a safety net you accrue through your working life, so it does make sense to consider it as an option when you’re facing a pile up of debts. However, it is an option to be ventured into very very carefully, and not without the careful consultation of a financial professional, and you must pass an application for access.
How can my super get me out of debt?
Depending on the superannuation agreements you have had with your employers and how many years you’ve been working, your super amount can be thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars. If in a lump sum or incremental payments, this amount (or portion of this amount) can offer a solution to the problem of not being able to pay your debts without needing to opt for bankruptcy or insolvency.
What is financial hardship?
Severe hardship needs to be assessed by the ATO as part of the application process to get early access to your superannuation. This assessment comes down to three main criteria:
- You are on, or have been receiving, government welfare payments for at least 26 consecutive weeks (this does not include ABSTUDY, Austudy or Youth Allowance)
- You are receiving these payments at the time of application
- You cannot pay living expenses (this includes: rent, mortgage repayments, outstanding bills, car repairs, medical expenses).
How can I access my superannuation to help with my debt?
Yes, but only under very specific circumstances and under limited conditions. You are currently able to apply for access to untaxed sums from your superannuation if you can prove financial hardship directly due to novel coronavirus after an approved application from the ATO. In this circumstance you can be eligible for up to $10,000 until the end of the financial year, and an additional $10,000 from the beginning of the financial year until 24 September 2020.
Eligible applicants will need to be either:
- Made redundant (after 1 January 2020)
- Have working hours reduced by 20 per cent or more
- Have their business suspended, or reduced in turnover of over 20 per cent
- Receiving job seeker payments or youth allowance, or receiving parenting payment, special benefit or farm household allowance.
You can find more information on accessing your superannuation at the ATO website or talk to us about your possible eligibility and if it will be a genuine recommended option for you.
Outside of COVID-19 circumstances, you are able to apply to access your super if you are experiencing severe financial hardship, or are between 55 and 60 years old and have met the retirement requirements.
What are the cons of getting super out early?
There are a few things to consider when accessing your superannuation early. Firstly, you need to make sure that you are certain you are communicating with the ATO or legitimate government website. In the wake of the superannuation scheme for COVID-19, there were significant attempts and events of people being scammed out of their personal information and money by fake websites and third party scams that either claimed to be able to help with gaining access to super, or pretending to be a government website. To avoid getting caught up, be sure to always type the ATO URL directly into your browser (as opposed to clicking on a hyperlink or ad) and do not enter your personal information unless you are absolutely sure you are on an official website.
The other issue is hamstringing your future financial situation. Accessing your super early should only be done in vital situations when all other avenues have been exhausted. At Shaw Gidley, we often guide clients through the process of not just accessing super, but ensuring that you are using them in the best possible way and aren’t leaving yourself destitute at retirement.
Shaw Gidley are experts in restructuring, turnaround and insolvency and provide free initial advice on these matters.
Please contact our offices on (02) 4908 4444 or (02) 6580 0400.