Super pay out: Income streams trump lump sums

Super pay out: Income streams trump lump sums

New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this month shows an increasing number of retirees are choosing to access their superannuation through an income stream rather than by receiving lump sum payments.

One in four people aged 65 years and over (excluding those in nursing homes and retirement villages) were reportedly receiving a superannuation income stream in 2013-14, up from one in five in 2003-04.

This amounted to almost 1.2 million people receiving an income stream from their superannuation at an average of $502 per week. 

“Of that 1.2 million, about three quarters were aged 65 years or over and one quarter were between 55 and 64 (876,000 and 307,000, respectively),” said Bjorn Jarvis, Program Manager of the ABS’ Labour and Income Branch.

While income streams seem to be the most popular choice for retirees, Mr Jarvis also said that in 2013-14, 420,000 people reported they had withdrawn a lump sum from their superannuation in the previous two years. Half were for amounts less than $25,000.

Withdrawing lump sums from your super account in retirement is one option available if you are looking to invest in your home, by renovating it or paying off your mortgage, reduce other debts or make alternate investments, depending on your personal circumstances.

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There are, however, some points to keep in mind that may help you make the decision as to whether a lump sum withdrawal is a good choice for you.

  • Tax: Retirees should keep in mind that lump sum withdrawals from superannuation, if you are under the age of 60, may be subject to tax with the tax treatment divided into a ‘taxable’ and a ‘tax-free’ component. As their names suggest, the ‘taxable’ component attracts tax, while the ‘tax-free’ component does not. The taxable component is taxed at 22% for those under age 55 and for those aged between their preservation age and 59 years, the first $195,000 is tax free with the balance taxed at 17%. For over 60s, withdrawals from super are generally tax-free. Contact your fund for more details.
  • Investing: For retirees looking to withdraw a lump sum to make an alternate investment, it is important to consider for what amount of time this investment will tie up your money. Some investments could potentially tie up your funds for a long period of time leaving you short if you need to access your cash in a hurry. Professional advice should be sought prior to making an investment decision.
  • Centrelink: For retirees that receive the aged pension through Centrelink, a lump sum withdrawal from super may affect the eligibility for you or your partner’s payments depending on its intended use. For example, a withdrawal used to pay down a mortgage may not have any affect but a withdrawal to buy a new asset, like a car, may. It is best to look at the conditions for receiving your Centrelink payment before withdrawing a lump sum from your super.
  • Discipline: When it comes to considering a lump sum withdrawal from your super account, it pays to know yourself well. Are you the type of person who can trust yourself to use the money for your advantage? Or have you been known to go on the occasional spending spree, leaving yourself high and dry when you most need cash? Asking these questions of yourself honestly before considering withdrawing a lump sum from your super is a good starting point. 
  • Longevity: A final consideration before making a lump sum withdrawal from your superannuation should be the longevity of your super. After all, this money is meant to last you the rest of your life, so decisions relating to super should be considered very carefully in terms of their future implications. It is advisable to seek professional advice specific to your circumstances when making any decisions regarding super.

Important Information

Advice contained in this article is general in nature and not specific to your particular circumstances.  Before making an investment decision you should consider your own financial situation and the relevant Product Disclosure Statement/s.  We also recommend you seek advice about your own particular circumstances from a licensed financial adviser.  Further information on superannuation can be found at: https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/superannuation-and-retirement.

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Learn more about superannuation

When can I access my superannuation?

You can withdraw your superannuation when you meet the ‘conditions of release’. The conditions of release say you can claim your super when you reach:

  • Age 65
  • Your ‘preservation age’ and retire
  • Your preservation age and begin a ‘transition to retirement’ while still working

The preservation age – which is different to the pension age – is based on date of birth. Here are the six different categories:

Date of birth Preservation age
Before 1 July 1960 55
1 July 1960 – 30 June 1961 56
1 July 1961 – 30 June 1962 57
1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963 58
1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964 59
From 1 July 1964 60

A transition to retirement allows you to continue working while accessing up to 10 per cent of the money in your superannuation account at the start of each financial year.

There are also seven special circumstances under which you can claim your superannuation:

  • Compassionate grounds
  • Severe financial hardship
  • Temporary incapacity
  • Permanent incapacity
  • Superannuation inheritance
  • Superannuation balance under $200
  • Temporary resident departing Australia

 

How long after divorce can you claim superannuation?

You or your partner could be forced to surrender part of your superannuation if you divorce, just like with other assets.

You can file a claim for division of property – including superannuation – as soon as you divorce. However, the claim has to be filed within one year of the divorce.

Your superannuation could be affected even if you’re in a de facto relationship – that is, living together as a couple without being officially married.

In that case, the claim has to be filed within two years of the date of separation.

Either way, the first thing to consider is whether you’re a member of a standard, APRA-regulated superannuation fund or if you’re a member of a self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF), because different rules apply.

Standard superannuation funds

If your relationship breaks down, your superannuation savings might be divided by court order or by agreement.

The rules of the superannuation fund will dictate whether this transfer happens immediately, or in the future when the person who has to make the transfer is allowed to access the rest of their superannuation (i.e. at or near retirement).

Click here for more information.

SMSFs

If your relationship breaks down, you must continue to observe the trust deed of your SMSF.

So if you and your partner are both members of the same SMSF, neither party is allowed to use the fund to inflict ‘punishment’ – such as by excluding the other party from the decision-making process or refusing their request to roll their money into another superannuation fund.

This no-punishment rule applies even if the two parties are involved in legal proceedings.

Click here for more information.

Financial consequences

Superannuation funds often charge a fee for splitting accounts after a relationship breakdown.

Splitting superannuation can also impact the size of your total super balance and how your super is taxed.

Click here for more information.

How can I keep track of my superannuation?

Most funds will allow you to access your superannuation account online. Another option is to manage your superannuation through myGov, which is a government portal through which you can access a range of services, including Medicare, Centrelink, aged care and child support.

What is a superannuation fund?

A superannuation fund is an institution that is legally allowed to hold and invest your superannuation. There are more than 200 different superannuation funds in Australia. They come in five different types:

  • Retail funds
  • Industry funds
  • Public sector funds
  • Corporate funds
  • Self-managed super funds

Retail funds are usually run by banks or investment companies.

Industry funds were originally designed for workers from a particular industry, but are now open to anyone.

Public sector funds were originally designed for people working for federal or state government departments. Most are still reserved for government employees.

Corporate funds are arranged by employers for their employees.

Self-managed super funds are private superannuation funds that allow people to directly invest their money.

How can I increase my superannuation?

You can increase your superannuation through a ‘salary sacrifice’. This is where your employer takes part of your pre-tax salary and pays it directly into your superannuation account. Like regular superannuation contributions, salary sacrifices are taxed at 15 per cent when they are paid into the fund.

Am I entitled to superannuation if I'm a contractor?

As a contractor, you’re entitled to superannuation if:

  • The contract is mainly for your labour
  • You’re over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • You’re under 18, you work more than 30 hours per week and you earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month

Please note that you’re entitled to superannuation even if you have an Australian business number (ABN).

Who can open a superannuation account?

Superannuation accounts can be opened by Australians, permanent residents and temporary residents. You’re automatically entitled to superannuation if:

  • You’re over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • You’re under 18, you work more than 30 hours per week and you earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month

How do you access superannuation?

Accessing your superannuation is a simple administrative procedure – you just ask your fund to pay it. You can access your superannuation in three different ways:

  • Lump sum
  • Account-based pension
  • Part lump sum and part account-based pension

However, please note that your superannuation fund will only be able to make a payout if you meet the ‘conditions of release’. The conditions of release say you can claim your super when you reach:

  • Age 65
  • Your ‘preservation age’ and retire
  • Your preservation age and begin a ‘transition to retirement’ while still working

The preservation age has six different categories:

Date of birth Preservation age
Before 1 July 1960 55
1 July 1960 – 30 June 1961 56
1 July 1961 – 30 June 1962 57
1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963 58
1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964 59
From 1 July 1964 60

There are also seven special circumstances under which you can claim your superannuation:

  • Compassionate grounds
  • Severe financial hardship
  • Temporary incapacity
  • Permanent incapacity
  • Superannuation inheritance
  • Superannuation balance under $200
  • Temporary resident departing Australia

How much is superannuation?

Superannuation is currently 9.5 per cent – which means that your employer must pay you superannuation equivalent to 9.5 per cent of your salary.

The ‘superannuation guarantee’, as it is known, has been at 9.5 per cent since the 2014-15 financial year. It is scheduled to rise to 10.0 per cent in 2021-22, 10.5 per cent in 2022-23, 11.0 per cent in 2023-24, 11.5 per cent in 2024-25 and 12.0 per cent in 2025-26.

Do I have to pay myself superannuation if I'm self-employed?

No, self-employed workers don’t have to pay themselves superannuation. However, if you do pay yourself superannuation, you will probably be able to claim a tax deduction.

Can I choose a superannuation fund or does my employer choose one for me?

Most people can choose their own superannuation fund. However, you might not have this option if you are a member of certain defined benefit funds or covered by certain industrial agreements. If you don’t choose a superannuation fund, your employer will choose one for you.

What is lost superannuation?

Lost superannuation refers to savings in an account that you’ve forgotten about. This can happen if you’ve opened several different accounts over the years while moving from job to job.

What is the difference between accumulation and defined benefit funds?

A majority of Australians are in accumulation funds. These funds grow according to the amount of money invested and the return on that money.

A minority of Australians are in defined benefit funds – many of which are now closed to new members. These funds give payouts according to specific rules, such as how long the worker has been with their employer and their final salary before they retired.

How does superannuation affect the age pension?

Most Australians who are of retirement age can qualify for the age pension. However, depending on the size of your assets and post-retirement income, you might be entitled to only a reduced pension. In some instances, you might not be entitled to any pension payments.