Young, low balance members dominate early release

Younger, low balance members have represented the majority of the 466,000 who have so far been approved by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for hardship early access to their superannuation, according to superannuation fund executives who have been overseeing processing of the claims. 

What is more, the claims for early access to superannuation have been spread across virtually all superannuation funds – even those covering industries which were thought to have been largely unaffected by the stand-downs, redundancies and closures attaching to COVID-19. 

A call-around by Money Management revealed that most superannuation funds have received at least 200 to 300 early release requests with more than half coming from younger members with low balances, although some noted that a significant proportion of older, higher balance members had opted to take the full $10,000. 

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The superannuation funds dealing with the highest numbers of applicants (in the tens of thousands) were those in the travel, hospitality and retail industry such as Hostplus, Clubplus and REST although Money Management understands that diverse mega-funds such as AustralianSuper also had high numbers simply because of the broad nature of their membership and their underlying scale. 

Deloitte superannuation partner, Russell Mason said that given the manner in which virtually every fund had received early release requests, he did not believe the 453,000 number cited by the Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Services Technology, Senator Jane Hume or the 466,000 number cited by the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) suggested any of the funds would be facing liquidity issues. 

“It may be only the first batch, but that number is far less than many fund executives were expecting or had feared,” he said. 

One chief executive of a smaller fund said that it had received 260 requests for an average amount of $8,600. 

“$22 million is not a big deal and if our members are in distress, fair enough,” he said. 

AIST chief executive, Eva Scheerlinck reinforced that profit to member funds had always stood ready to help their members. 

“From day one of the commencement of the new early release super scheme, funds were at the ready to process payments to eligible members upon receipt of each applicant’s details from the ATO. While some funds received these details on Monday, others had to wait until later in the week,” she said. 

She said the latest figures available yesterday showed that 466,000 Australians had so far applied to access a total of $3.6 billion of super through the early release scheme, but noted that this was about half the number of Australians who had so far registered their interest with the ATO to access up to $10,00 of their super. 

“Profit-to-member funds are united in supporting their fund members to access their super quickly and efficiently in these difficult times,” Scheerlinck said. 

“Funds are working round the clock to ensure that once they receive the relevant information from the ATO the member’s claim is processed as quickly as possible. Funds are very conscious that their members who are experiencing financial hardship need certainty to avoid further stress.” 

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This is just the start. Once the cheques start flowing, and word gets around on social media there will be an avalanche.

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