AN EARLY superannuation access program could have prolonged hardship for central Victorian residents, a Bendigo financial counsellor fears.
As many as 16,586 Bendigo-electorate residents used a government COVID-19 policy to withdraw thousands from their super fund in 2019-20 and 2020-21, according to industry estimates.
Up top 3222 people drained their accounts completely.
But some may have used their super trying to save assets, which prolonged unemployment meant they eventually lost anyway, a Bendigo financial counselllor said.
Bendigo Family and Financial Services general manager Jenny Elvey said quite a few of her clients had withdrawn money after losing employment, to keep up their house or car payments, or pay bills.
She said even with the JobSeeker supplement some people were falling behind on bills or payments during the COVID-19 crisis.
Ms Elvey said for some it had just prolonged their hardship, as they had withdrawn super, but continued unemployment meant when the funds ran out they could not keep up with payments anyway.
But she said the super initiative had saved others from losing a property.
We'll have to wait a few years ... to see when people retire, how it's affecting the amount they retire with.Jenny Elvey
Ms Elvey said most people would be unable to replace the fun lost from their super, which would leave them with less to retire on. She said the effect of even $10,000 taken out of super would be high, given the importance of compounding interest.
"We'll have to wait a few years ... to see when people retire, how it's affecting the amount they retire with," Ms Elvey said.
"If they can put that money back in, there hasn't been much harm done, but if they haven't been able to put that money back in, there's a lot less they'll be able to retire with."
Ms Elvey said the process for accessing super seemed very easy, leading her to think some people might have withdrawn it thinking they were doing the right thing but without advice on how it would affect them later.
She said having lower super would mean people were more reliant on government payments, a lot less than what they would have during retirement with super to top it up.
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