retMatt Coughlan and Katina Curtis
(Australian Associated Press)
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 pandemic 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 (who) 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 apply.
“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.
She disputed some “pretty wild” numbers being floated about dire repercussions for people’s retirement outcomes.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe said super funds’ liquidity as a whole was “perfectly manageable”.
“For some funds, the withdrawal also be quite large and those funds will have to shrink,” Dr Lowe told a media briefing.
“Some of the scenarios suggest that up to 20 or 25 per cent under funds under management could be withdrawn for some particular funds.
“But these funds have now had a month to get ready and they have further time before those withdrawals will take place.”
He said if the RBA was to provide a liquidity support facility, it would need to pass a public interest test.
“At the moment we are not in a position to conclude that.”