July 10 2023

A super guide for students

For students, time is precious as you try to juggle study, work, and a social life (not to mention the pressure of trying to figure out what you should do with your life). But fear not! We're here to help you navigate the world of super as a student, including any government support you might be eligible for, and what you should know about paying down your HELP debt.
Student objects, a notepad, an student hat and a smartphone

What is superannuation?

Superannuation, or ‘super’, is money that’s put away and invested over your working life to help you save for retirement. Think of it as a long-term investment portfolio that you can cash in when you stop working.

But where does this money come from? If you have a job, your employer usually pays a percentage of your income into your super account. This is called the super guarantee (SG). You can also add more money, or contributions, to your super account yourself, but there’s a limit to how much you can add each year.

You can access your super money either as a lump sum or regular payments when you reach a set age, called the ‘preservation age, or meet certain requirements.

Do students get paid super?

Great question! If you have a job while you're studying, you might be wondering if you'll get paid super. The answer is in many cases, yes but in depends on your eligibility.

When you start working as an employee, even if it’s part-time or casually, your employer must contribute at least 11% of your earnings (for 2023-24) into your superannuation fund as part of the super guarantee if you are eligible. It's a way to help eligible employees save for their retirement, even if they're not earning a lot of money yet.

Eligibility rules are a bit different for employees under 18: they must work more than 30 hours per week to be entitled to SG contributions from their employer.

Also here's the thing: not all jobs are the same, and some employers might not be required to pay super. For example, if you're self-employed or working as a contractor, you may not be eligible to receive employer super contributions, which means you might want to consider if making your own super contributions is right for you. It's important to know what you’re entitled to when it comes to super, as it can help you plan for your future.

Further information on super guarantee eligibility can be found in ATO’s website.

What is the low-income super tax offset?

The low-income super tax offset (LISTO) is a super payment of up to $500 made by the government for people with low incomes.

If you earn less than $37,000 in a financial year, you might be eligible for the low-income super tax offset. This means that the government will pay up to $500 into your super account. It can be helpful for low-income earners who want to save for their future but don't have a lot of extra money to spare.

Find the latest information about LISTO on the ATO website.

How do I access the low-income super tax offset?

If you're eligible for the LISTO, you don't need to do anything to receive it. The government will automatically pay it directly into your super account.

However, you should make sure your super fund has your tax file number (TFN). This is because your super fund won't be able to accept the payment without your TFN.

So, if you're eligible for the LISTO, it's a good idea to check with your super fund to make sure they have your TFN on file, so that you can get the support you're entitled to in saving for your retirement.



If you’re a Rest member, you’ll be able to provide us with your TFN by logging in to MemberAccess.

What is the government super co-contribution scheme?

Under the super co-contribution scheme, the government may make super co-contributions into eligible people’s super when they make a personal after-tax contribution. The scheme is designed to help low and middle-income earners save money for their retirement.

To be eligible, you must:

  • earn below the maximum income threshold
  • have earned at least 10% of your total income from employment, running a business or a combination of both.
  • make at least one personal contribution to your super in a financial year
  • lodge your tax return, even if you’re not required to for income tax purposes
  • be less than 71 years old at the end of the financial year
  • not hold a temporary visa at any time during the financial year (unless you are a New Zealand citizen or it was a prescribed visa)
  • have a total super balance less than the general transfer balance cap at the end of the previous financial year
  • not have contributed more than your non-concessional contributions cap.

For full eligibility criteria, visit the ATO website.

See the below table for the co-contribution income thresholds at the time of writing. These thresholds are updated every year in February – check the ATO website for the latest information on co-contribution thresholds.

Financial year

Maximum entitlement Lower income threshold Higher income threshold


$500 $43,445 $58,445





The amount of the co-contribution payment depends on how much you earn, and how much you contribute to your super fund. As at the date of this article, the minimum co-contribution payment is $20 and the maximum is $500. You can use the ATO’s super co-contribution calculator to estimate how much you might be eligible for.

How do I access the government super co-contribution?

If you’re eligible, you don’t need to apply for the co-contribution; it will be paid directly into your super account like the LISTO. But you should make sure that:

  • your super fund has your TFN
  • your personal contribution has been made before the end of the financial year and your account receives the money before June 30

If you’re claiming your personal contribution as a tax deduction, you won’t get a super co-contribution for it. In other words, you can’t double dip as you can only be eligible for one.

It’s important to remember that you should consider your circumstances and objectives before adding to your super. Preservation rules prevent a person from accessing their super until they meet a condition of release (e.g. reach your preservation age and retire). If you have any questions, we recommend you seek advice from a licensed financial adviser. 

Can I use my super to pay off my HELP debt?

Generally you can’t access your super just to pay off your study and training loan, like HELP and VSL.

Even though your super is your money, it’s meant to be used for your retirement, so there are strict rules around when and how you can access it. Simply needing your super to pay off your student debt isn’t an eligible reason for early release of your super. 

Learn more about the conditions of release on the ATO website.

The income threshold for HELP debt repayments is $51,550 for the 2023-24 financial year (this is updated annually). This means people earning over this amount will need to make repayments; people who earn below this amount don't.

‘Repayment income’ includes total net investment loss (which includes net rental losses), total reportable fringe benefits amounts, reportable super contributions, and exempt foreign employment income. Generally as the borrower’s pay goes up, their student loan repayment will also increase.

It is also possible for a borrower to choose to make voluntary repayments towards their student debt at any time. 

Are there rules around super and HELP debt that I should consider?

Some things to keep in mind:

  • HELP debts are generally indexed every year in line with inflation, even if you take a career break and make no income for that year.
  • Any repayments to your student loan are not refundable.
  • Any extra contributions you make to your super fund are generally locked away until you reach retirement age. You may be able to access your super earlier under limited circumstances.
  • You may be able to claim tax deductions on your personal super contributions. Tax deductions are not available for voluntary repayments to your HELP debt.
  • There are limits or ‘caps’ on the amount of after-tax contributions you can make each financial year. If you go over the caps, you may have to pay extra tax.

Everyone’s approach to this is going to be different and will depend on their individual circumstances and financial goals. It could be a good idea to speak with a financial adviser or accountant who can give you personal advice based on your situation.

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