Accessing your super when you retire

Once you reach your preservation age and you have retired, you can generally access your super. Even if you know a lot about how super works, it’s important to grasp just how your preservation age affects your super withdrawals and the amount of tax you pay on your savings. Find out everything you need to know about accessing your super and satisfying the conditions of release.

Superannuation is designed to help you save for your retirement, so it stands to reason that there are rules around when you can access it.

Accessing your super

Preserved and non-preserved benefits

Contributions and investment earnings made to your account since 1 July 1999 are preserved. This means they must stay invested in a superannuation account until you reach your preservation age and retire, or satisfy another condition of release (more info below).

If you accumulated super before 1 July 1999, some of your contributions and investment earnings may not be preserved.

  • Restricted non-preserved benefits that can generally be paid to you on termination of employment
  • Unrestricted non-preserved benefits that may be paid to you at any time.

Check your statement or contact us if you think you may have non-preserved benefits.

At what age can you access super?

Generally, you can access your super when you retire and reach your preservation age – although there are some circumstances where you can access your super early.

Your preservation age is the minimum age at which you can access your preserved super benefits.

Your preservation age depends on when you were born.

Date of birthPreservation Age
Before 1/7/196055
1/7/1960 to 30/6/196156
1/7/1961 to 30/6/196257
1/7/1962 to 30/6/196358
1/7/1963 to 30/6/196459
After 30/6/196460

Once you turn 65, you can access your super any time, even if you're still working.

If you’ve reached your preservation age and retired but are under age 60, you may have to pay tax on any payments you receive.

Find out how your super withdrawal or pension income will be taxed

Please note, your preservation age is different to your Age Pension age.

Super withdrawal options

Once you reach your preservation age, there are several options for accessing your super savings:

  • Leave it in your super account and continue to grow your balance (depending on your age and employment status
  • Start a Transition to Retirement account, allowing you to continue working while accessing some of your super savings
  • Start an account based pension account and receive a regular income stream
  • Withdraw your super as a lump sum

What you do will depend on your personal circumstances, the amount of tax you expect to pay on your income payments and investment earnings, and the type of retirement you want for yourself.

Find out more about the benefits of starting a retirement income stream

Transfer balance cap

Under superannuation law, a limit (called the transfer balance cap) applies on the total amount of super you can transfer to a retirement phase income stream (such as a pension account). The transfer balance cap for people starting a retirement phase income stream for the first time on or from 1 July 2021 is $1.7 million.

If you already have any retirement phase income streams and at any time between 1 July 2017 and 1 July 2021 the total balance of those income streams was $1.6 million or more, your transfer balance cap will be $1.6 million. If you already have any retirement phase income streams but their total balance has not been more than $1.6 million since 1 July 2017, then your cap will be proportionately increased based on your unused cap.

Your personal transfer balance cap is available on ATO Online.

More information about the transfer balance cap is available on the ATO website.

Conditions of release explained

There are multiple ways that you can legally access your superannuation in Australia. These are known as conditions of release.

You will generally only need to satisfy one condition of release to gain access to some or all of your super.

The most common conditions of release are:

  • Reaching your preservation age and retiring
  • Reaching your preservation age and starting a retirement income stream
  • Ceasing employment at age 60 or over, even if you don't intend to retire
  • Turning 65, even if you're still working
  • Death

What's the difference between 'ceasing employment' and 'retiring'

'Ceasing employment' and 'retiring' might sound like the same thing but under super laws they're actually different.

If you're 60 and you stop working (or cease employment) you can access the super savings you have accumulated so far, even if you intend to go back to work. If you start working again, you can't access the new super you accumulate from this new job until you meet another condition of release, for example turning 65 or retiring.

If you retire it means that you have reached your preservation age, ceased gainful employment and you do not intend to become gainfully employed again in the future.

Other conditions of release

Other conditions under which your super may be released include:

  • Temporary or permanent incapacity
  • Diagnosis of a terminal medical condition
  • Severe financial hardship
  • Compassionate grounds
  • Through the First Home Super Saver Scheme
  • Permanent departure from Australia
  • Termination of employment with less than $200 in your super account
  • Financial difficulties due to COVID-19 (please note this is a temporary measure allowed by the Federal Government)

Once you’ve satisfied a condition of release, you will generally be able to receive your super as a lump sum, income stream, or a combination of both.