Million Australians eye early super access

Almost one million Australians have expressed an interest in getting immediate access to their retirement savings through an emergency coronavirus measure.

But there are concerns a high proportion of claims could be made by people who aren’t eligible, tying up the processes for those genuinely in need.

The Morrison government is allowing people affected by the coronavirus crisis to take up to $20,000 out of their superannuation to help cope with economic stress.

Applications have officially opened after 975,000 people registered interest in participating in the scheme.

Assistant Superannuation Minister Jane Hume says the high numbers reflect the scale of the economic crisis.

“Of course, that’s a concern,” she told Sky News on Tuesday.

“That’s nearly a million Australians that are concerned about their financial viability, their financial future, that are concerned about their jobs and paying a mortgage.”

The government estimates up to 1.7 million Australians will access their super early, with two rounds in which $10,000 will be available.

However, polling done for the industry super funds suggests large numbers of people who haven’t been hit by the economic slump will seek access to their money.

About three in 10 working Australians are considering accessing their super, the UMR polling for Industry Super Australia found.

But out of these, about 40 per cent hadn’t suffered a financial blow.

In fact, some of those who intend to apply said they were now working more hours than before the crisis.

The unemployed, welfare recipients, people made redundant since the start of the year, and those who have had a 20 per cent reduction in hours are eligible.

Sole traders who have had their business suspended or copped a 20 per cent reduction in turnover can also access super early.

“It is important that those that need to access their super can do so quickly, without being caught behind an administrative logjam of ineligible claimants,” Industry Super Australia boss Bernie Dean said.

“It is tempting to tap into your super early, some may want to do so as a savings buffer, but nothing in life is for free and cracking open your nest egg comes at a steep cost – it should be treated as a last resort.”

Senator Hume said people should consider their circumstances carefully before making a decision.

“We’re certainly not encouraging people to take up the offer, but we are giving them the offer to make an assessment about their own financial situation, their own family budget,” she said.

But she disputed some “pretty wild” numbers being floated about dire repercussions for people’s retirement outcomes.

Liberal backbencher Andrew Bragg has asked the sector’s watchdog to run a ruler over superannuation funds’ confirmation of their strong liquidity.

“The confidence of the individual funds contrasts with the subterranean industry campaign for a bailout some weeks ago. This appears to have been an ambit claim,” the senator said.

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