• Tony Bosworth

Macquarie residents have taken $200m from their Super accounts – 4000 accounts now totally empty

Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains residents withdrew more than $200m early from their Super last year, and left close to 4000 Super accounts completely empty, with no savings for retirement.

The government allowed fund-holders to access their Super from April 2020 to help people get through the Covid pandemic’s effect on job losses, and to help shuttered businesses

New figures from Industry Super Australia taken from Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data show 26,494 applications for early Super payments were made in Macquarie up to December 13 of last year, with $200.8 million being paid out.

“The data shows the average payment in Macquarie was $7578, and 3752 accounts were wiped out altogether,” Federal MP for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, said.

The data doesn’t split Macquarie into local government areas, so the figures span both Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains.

Across NSW, $10 billion dollars of Superannuation funds were withdrawn with more than 225,000 people in NSW taking out as much as $20,000, which in some cases emptied their Super retirement accounts.

Some people have emptied their Super accounts - 4000 in Macquarie

“People might not realise it, but $38 billion of their own superannuation money was the biggest boost to the economy behind JobKeeper last year,” said Ms Templeman.

Bur Hawkesbury Liberal councillor, Sarah Richards – who stood against Ms Templeman and narrowly lost at the last general election in 2019 – says, “early access to superannuation is a critical part of the Morrison Government’s economic recovery plan in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“At the end of the day,” Ms Richards told the Post, “this is about people’s own hard earned money and during this once-in-a-century pandemic, they should be able to access it.

“Opponents of this temporary measure are effectively making a vote of no confidence in locals’ capacity to make their own financial decisions.”

For some, being able to access some of their Super has been a lifesaver as the Covid pandemic hit jobs and businesses

But Ms Templeman says, “while it might have helped in the short term, it’s going to leave a big gap for people down the track, which is why it’s vital the government sticks to its promise to lift the Super rate from 9.5 per cent to 10 per cent this year, to give people the chance to recoup their savings for when they retire.”

By longstanding agreement on both sides of politics, the Superannuation rate is due to increase to 10 per cent this year from July, with further increases to 12 per cent by 2025, but the government have been canvassing keeping it at 9.5 per cent.

From April, Australians who had lost their jobs or had hours reduced were allowed to access $10,000 in Super before July 1 and a further $10,000 until December 2020.

According to Industry Super Australia, accessing Super early in your career can come at a steep cost to your savings. A 30-year-old who withdraws $20,000 could have up to $80,000 less at retirement.

“There is also a cost to the public purse,” say the report’s authors, “as for every $1 taken out by someone in their 30s the taxpayer contributes up to $2.50 in increased pension costs. Ditching the legislated increase [in Super] would heap pressure on the pension and be a cruel blow to those who had to make the tough choice to sacrifice retirement savings to get them through the pandemic downturn”.

Ms Templeman said: “I’m concerned that the Minister for Superannuation, Jane Hume, thinks a better option would be for retirees to sell their house if they don’t have enough Super.

“This is what she’s suggested late last month - in an opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review - arguing that too many Australians were ‘eventually dying with most of their savings intact’.

“It’s now clear a decent retirement income for all Australians isn’t on the Morrison Government’s agenda.”

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