What is the pension phase of superannuation?

The pension phase signifies a transition from accumulating your super savings to drawing them down as a regular income stream to support your retirement lifestyle. This phase kicks in when you meet a condition of release, typically reaching your preservation age (between 55 and 60 depending on your birth year) and choosing to retire.

There’s a key distinction here: retiring and entering the pension phase aren’t always synonymous. You can still work part-time while receiving an income stream from your super in the pension phase. This flexibility makes super an attractive option for those transitioning gradually into retirement.

Transferring to the Pension Phase

Moving your super savings into the pension phase isn’t automatic. You’ll need to instruct your superannuation fund to initiate the transfer. There’s also a cap on how much you can transfer, currently set at $1.9 million (as of May 2024). Amounts exceeding this limit can remain in the accumulation phase, where they continue to grow but are taxed differently, or they can be withdrawn from super altogether.

Tax Advantages of the Pension Phase

One of the biggest perks of the pension phase is the favorable tax treatment. Income payments from account-based pensions (the most common type of pension) are generally tax-free for individuals over the age of 60. This significantly reduces your tax burden compared to income derived from other sources during retirement.

There are, however, minimum withdrawal requirements that increase gradually as you age. These minimums ensure a steady flow of income but also prevent you from leaving your super untouched and accumulating tax-free earnings indefinitely.

Types of Pensions in the Pension Phase

Within the pension phase, there are various options to consider, each with its own characteristics:

  • Account-based Pensions (ABPs): These offer flexibility in terms of choosing the investment strategy for your remaining super balance and determining the size and frequency of your income payments (within limits).
  • Allocated Pensions: Similar to ABPs, allocated pensions allow some control over investment choices. However, the income stream is typically determined by a formula set by the fund.
  • Lifetime Pensions (Annuities): These provide a guaranteed income stream for life, offering peace of mind but sacrificing some control over investment decisions.

Key Considerations for Entering the Pension Phase

Making informed decisions before entering the pension phase is crucial. Here are some key factors to ponder:

  • Your Retirement Income Needs: Estimate your anticipated retirement expenses to determine the necessary income stream from your super.
  • Life Expectancy: Consideration of your life expectancy can help you choose a suitable pension type (lifetime vs. account-based).
  • Investment Strategy: Even in the pension phase, investment decisions still impact your income stream. Choose an investment approach that aligns with your risk tolerance and retirement goals.
  • Tax Implications: Understand the tax implications of different pension types and how minimum withdrawal requirements might affect your overall tax bill.

Seeking Professional Advice

The intricacies of the pension phase can be overwhelming. Consulting with a financial advisor specializing in superannuation can be invaluable. They can help you navigate the transition, select an appropriate pension type, and develop a personalized retirement income strategy.


The pension phase unlocks your super savings, transforming them into a steady income stream for your retirement years. With its tax advantages and flexibility, it’s a powerful tool for financial security in your golden years. By understanding the mechanics, key considerations, and seeking professional guidance, you can make informed decisions to optimize your pension phase and enjoy a comfortable retirement.


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