When Can I Access My SMSF?

  • Gareth LaneGareth Lane Ashwin RamdasAshwin Ramdas
  • Updated Jul 11, 2023

  • Mate Checked

    This information has been reviewed by our SMSF Mates before it was published as part of our review process.

Self-managed super funds are one of the most popular retirement savings options in Australia. But when can you access your SMSF? The answer depends on a few factors, including your age, your employment status and your super balance.

Generally speaking, you can access your SMSF from age 55 if you’re retired or from age 60 if you’re still working. However, if you have a large super balance, you may be able to access your SMSF earlier.

If you’re under 55 and want to access your SMSF, you’ll need to meet one of the early release conditions set by the government. In this article, we’ll talk about all the need-to-know information about when you can access your super.

When can I access the super in my self-managed super fund? All conditions of release explained

There are a number of conditions that must be met before you can access your super. These include reaching preservation age, retiring from the workforce, or suffering from a terminal illness.

Reaching preservation age

Your preservation age is the earliest age at which you can access your super. The preservation age depends on when you were born:

  • Those born before 1 July 1960 have a preservation age of 55 years.
  • Those born between 1 July 1960 and 30 June 1961 have a preservation age of 56 years.
  • Those born between 1 July 1961 and 30 June 1962 have a preservation age of 57 years.
  • Those born after 1 July 1962 have a preservation age of 58 years.

Retiring from the workforce

If you retire from the workforce after reaching your preservation age, you may be able to access your superannuation. To be eligible for this, you must have:

  • left your job after age 60; or
  • left your job after reaching preservation age and met a work test (you must have worked at least 40 hours within 30 days before leaving your job).

Suffering from a terminal illness

If you suffer from a terminal illness and are not expected to live for more than 12 months, you may be able to access your super. You will need to provide a medical certificate from two registered medical practitioners confirming your diagnosis.

Other conditions of release

There are a number of other conditions of release that may allow you to access your super, including:

  • Compassionate grounds – if you need to access your superannuation to pay for expenses relating to an unexpected death, serious illness or injury, or disability of yourself or a dependent. You will need to provide supporting documentation from a medical practitioner or Centrelink.
  • Severe financial hardship – if you are experiencing financial hardship and are unable to meet your reasonable living expenses. You will need to provide evidence of this to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Temporary residents – if you are a temporary resident who is leaving Australia permanently, you may be able to access your superannuation. You will need to provide evidence of your impending departure to the ATO.

For more information on accessing your super, speak to a qualified financial advisor.

Can I access my Super at 55?

The answer is yes; you can access your superannuation at 55. However, there are a few conditions that must be met in order for you to do so.

The first condition is that you must have reached your preservation age. Your preservation age is the age at which you are able to access your superannuation benefits. For those born before July 1, 1960, the preservation age is 55. For those born after June 30, 1960, the preservation age ranges from 56 to 60, depending on your date of birth.

The second condition is that you must have permanently retired from the workforce. This means that you are not able to return to paid employment in the future. You will need to provide proof of your retirement to your superannuation fund.

The third and final condition is that you must satisfy a condition of release. There are many different conditions of release, but the most common one is reaching the age of 65. Other conditions of release include serious illness, permanent disability, death, or leaving Australia permanently.

If you meet all three of these conditions, then you are able to access your superannuation at 55. However, it is important to note that there may be tax implications associated with accessing your super early. You should speak to a financial advisor before doing so to ensure that you understand the implications.

Can I withdraw money from my SMSF?

If you withdraw money from your SMSF before you’re legally allowed to do so, you could face some serious consequences. For one, you will be required to pay back any money that was withdrawn, plus interest and penalties. Additionally, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) could take deem the SMSF non-compliant and significant financial penalties would be applied.

So, what exactly are the rules around withdrawing money from your SMSF? When can you do it, and when do you need approval? The general rule is that you can only withdraw money from your SMSF once you’ve reached retirement age (currently 65). However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you become permanently incapacitated or are diagnosed with a terminal illness, you may be able to access your superannuation benefits early.

Why can’t I retire at 55?

There are a number of reasons why you may not be able to retire at age 55. The first is that you may not have enough super saved up. To be able to fully retire at age 55, you would need to have saved enough money to cover your living expenses for the rest of your life. This is a difficult feat for many Australians, who are still paying off mortgages and other debts well into their 50s.

Another reason you may not be able to retire at age 55 is because of changes to the law. In recent years, the Australian government has raised the minimum retirement age from 55 to 60. This means that if you want to access your super early, you will incur a significant tax penalty. Finally, your superannuation fund may have restrictions on when you can access your money. Some funds will only allow you to withdraw your money once you reach retirement age, while others may allow you to make early withdrawals but charge high fees for doing so.

This means that if you’re hoping to retire at age 55, it’s important to start planning early and doing your research. Talk to a financial advisor about how much you need to save and what your options are for accessing your super early. With careful planning, you may be able to make your dream of early retirement a reality.

Can I choose the withdrawal types?

All withdrawal payments made through SMSFs are treated as Lump Sum remittances if the retiree is over 65. Alternatively, if you start a retirement account through an SMSF, you can choose either a pension or lump sum withdrawal to supplement the minimum annual retirement income.

Compassionate grounds for withdrawing super

In Australia, the government has started considering compassionate grounds for the early release of superannuation. This policy is in place to help those who are facing financial hardship due to unforeseen circumstances, such as severe illness or injury, natural disasters and permanent incapacity.

The requirements for early access to superannuation on compassionate grounds include detailed evidence of extreme financial hardship and/or a letter from a medical specialist about the person’s condition. Applications must also show that other forms of assistance have been considered first before claiming an early release of superannuation funds.

For those eligible, this can be a lifeline during an incredibly difficult time by providing them with extra financial support when they need it most. It allows people to take care of their immediate financial needs without compromising their long-term retirement savings.

Preservation age or older and starting a transition-to-retirement income stream (TTR or TRIS)

If you’re of preservation age or older, you might be considering starting a transition-to-retirement income stream (TTR or TRIS). This can be a great way to supplement your existing income while still enjoying the benefits of tax concessions. The best thing about setting up a TTR or TRIS is that it’s easy and straightforward. Plus, there are other potential benefits depending on your unique circumstances, so it’s worth taking some time to think about whether this could work for you. Talk to an expert for more information and advice on how to make the most out of your retirement savings.

Tax consequences of withdrawing my Super before age 60

You might be tempted to withdraw your Super early if you’re in a tight spot financially, but you should consider the tax consequences before doing so. Generally, if you take out your Super before the age of 60, your withdrawal will be taxed at the marginal rate (i.e. the rate at which your last dollar of income is taxed). This can end up costing you more than if you had left it untouched until after age 60.

If you take out money from your super fund while under preservation age (between 55 and 60), your withdrawal may also include an additional 15% tax penalty. On top of this, depending on how much money you have withdrawn, it may put you into a higher income tax bracket as well.

It’s worth noting that there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if you’re suffering from a terminal illness or have reached age 65 and retired, then you might be able to take out your Super without any additional tax.

Before making the decision to withdraw your Super early, it pays to seek professional advice from a financial professional who can help weigh up the pros and cons of doing so versus leaving it untouched until after age 60. This way, you can make an informed decision about your retirement savings.

Withdrawing super because of permanent incapacity

When you become permanently incapacitated, your superannuation can provide financial support and help to cover both medical and living expenses. Your insurer may pay out a lump sum or provide an income stream depending on the nature of your incapacity. In some cases, you may be eligible to access to your superannuation funds in order to cover costs associated with disability or illness. It’s important to note that accessing your superannuation early has significant tax consequences, so it is best to speak with a financial advisor before making any decisions.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that all of your information regarding permanent incapacity is up-to-date when dealing with superannuation funds – this includes any claims forms, medical certificates and financial statements. If there is any confusion or uncertainty about your eligibility, be sure to contact your superannuation provider for clarification.

Remember that everyone’s situation is different when it comes to permanent incapacity and superannuation, so make sure you take the time to understand all of the options available to you and seek professional advice where possible. This will ensure that you are making the best decisions for securing your financial future in the long term.

General Advice Warning

Gareth Lane

Concise Digital

Gareth Lane is a successful entrepreneur, businessman, and owner of the digital marketing and web agency Concise Digital, based out of Perth, Western Australia. Concise Digital have solved over 60,000 digital / web problems for clients since 2005. Gareth is one of the founders of SMSF Mate.

Gareth is passionate about helping small businesses be more successful online by avoiding the pitfalls of digital marketing. He regularly runs live talks, workshops and meetups discussing Google, social media and all things digital marketing.

Gareth studied Business and Commerce at Curtin University, and has held board positions for a number of organisations, including serving as the President of the Western Suburbs Business Association and as a non-executive member of WA Business Assist. A true entrepreneur at heart, he started his first business at 13 and has created and run multiple successful businesses since.

Gareth enjoys good food, great wine and time in the sun when he’s not at his computer helping other businesses get ahead!

You can find out more about Gareth or connect with him on Linkedin here:

Or visit his websites here: or

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Ashwin Ramdas

Eventum Consulting

Ashwin is an accountant and educator based in Perth, Western Australia. He is passionate about helping family owned businesses and startups. He is one of the founders of SMSF Mate and you’ll regularly see him on our podcast!

Ashwin is a managing owner and director of Eventum Consulting, a multidisciplinary firm helping clients with finance, succession planning and their tax needs. He also served as a lecturer in taxation and small business at the Central Institute of Technology, and has worked as an accountant at a number of well-known tax specialists.

Ashwin studied a Diploma of Business Education and a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting and Corporate Finance, both at Curtin University, WA.

Ashwin is passionate about technology, and sees it as an enabler for his clients to grow truly sustainable and profitable businesses.

You can find out more about Ashwin or connect with him on Linkedin here:

Or visit his website here:

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Kind words from Aussies managing
their own self funded futures

  • SMSF Mate is a unique website because it has ideas about how to approach SMSFs, insurance and other financial topics that come straight from first hand experience. It's much more useful than what you find on all the other financial websites that just offer generic info that you could easily get on the ATO's website. It's also nice to know there's no financial incentive behind the information, it's legitimately there to help people understand self-managed super funds and how to get the most out of them, not to get an affiliate commission from a broker or other financial services provider. The investment product information is also incredibly useful, I've never seen this kind of functionality on any other website that let's you look at such a wide range of products, sort by what info is most interesting or important to you, and subscribe to updates for different funds and financial products all in one place. Definitely worth checking out if you own or are considering an SMSF!

    David G, Self-Employed, SMSF Owner
  • SMSF Mate provides a unique insight into superannuation and financial topics in a way that is easier to understand than conventional websites. The colloquial nature of the site makes it easy to understand and they often speak about complicated topics in lamens terms so I can wrap my head around them. The investment product information is a great way to research funds that I am interested in investing in with my SMSF and there is a lot of helpful information on the site for better structuring my investment portfolio. In comparison to other websites which offer similar information, SMSF Mate excels as the information is free to access whereas many other sites charge a subscription fee for the same thing. Overall, I think SMSF Mate is a great resource for SMSF trustees and is worth looking at for a variety of super-related topics. Thanks.

    Tim B, Business Owner, SMSF Trustee