Nearly half-a-million Australians wipe out retirement nest eggs

Half a million Australians have emptied their super accounts

Agribusiness
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superannuation: Early access raises concern

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Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has promised a crackdown on welfare scams.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has promised a crackdown on welfare scams.

Almost half-a-million Australians have completely emptied their retirement nest eggs through the government's early access to superannuation, according to Industry Super Australia.

According to the Tax Office, 2.3 million Australians have accessed their super early up to June 28, but it is not yet known how many have dipped in again this financial year.

Under measures announced by the federal government to stimulate the economy as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Australians were given the ability to apply to take out up to $10,000 out of their super in the 2019-20 financial year and another $10,000 in the 2020-21 financial year.

Industry Super Australia has analysed the available data and estimates about 480,000 Australians have completely emptied their accounts, even before access was open this financial year. The body representing industry super funds also estimates 395,000 of those who have wiped out their funds are under the age of 35.

According to the Tax Office, take up of the early access scheme has been uneven across the country, with one in five Queenslanders accessing their super early, the highest rate in the country. The Australian average is 15 per cent of people accessing their super early, but in the ACT it is just 8 per cent of people.

The analysis is based on Tax Office data of applicants to the scheme.

Industry Super Australia chief executive Bernie Dean said people would only access their super early as a last resort, and emptied super accounts will be felt not just by those who fall short at retirement time.

"To have hundreds of thousands wiping their savings out midway through their life is a tragedy waiting to happen and it will affect everyone," Mr Dean said. "Every Australian deserves a good life in retirement, not just scraping by on the pension."

The early access to super scheme has been plagued with issues, including people scammers taking people's super under the scheme, and reports people have spent their money online gambling.

The Australian Federal Police are investigating reports the super scheme and JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs have been scammed by overseas crime rings.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said despite the issues the super scheme was working as intended.

"When it comes to super drawdowns, that has been quite effective and the banks have told us this very clearly - in a lot of cases it's been used by people to shore up their mortgages and that is a sensible act," he told reporters on Thursday.

"It's up to people to decide what to do with their own money and where they're making those decisions to better protect their mortgages and put themselves in a more resilient position, that greatly assists them not just for now but for the long-term as well."

"I think Australians have been making their choices about this very carefully and very responsibly. Of course, there'll be some instances where that hasn't occurred, but I'm pleased to say that's in the minority of cases."

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg vowed to crack down on criminals targeting coronavirus welfare schemes.

"We're working to ensure that where there is fraud, it's uncovered and those people face the full force of the law," he said.

The story Nearly half-a-million Australians wipe out retirement nest eggs first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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