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Can I Change My Mind After I Claim My Social Security Retirement Benefits?

By Timothy Lee on March 1, 2022
Categories: SOCIAL SECURITY

The decision of when to claim your Social Security retirement benefits is an important component of your financial plan, especially for those who are nearing retirement. You may find this decision nerve-wracking due to its seemingly permanent nature and the thought of potentially leaving money on the table.

What Are My Options to Change My Social Security Decision?

The good news is the Social Security Administration understands that unexpected life changes (such as getting a new job or receiving a large inheritance) may occur after you have already claimed your Social Security retirement benefits. Therefore, there are a couple of options for those that have already claimed their benefits and would like to change their mind:

  1. If it’s been less than 12 months since you have claimed your benefits, regardless of your current age, you have the option to withdraw your application and reapply later.
  2. If you’re not able to withdraw your application, and you have reached at least your Full Retirement Age (FRA), you have the option to suspend your benefit payments.

The Social Security option(s) available to you will depend on how long it’s been since you claimed your benefits and your current age. Let’s discuss the two options in more detail.

Withdraw Your Application and Reapply Later

Assuming it’s been less than 12 months since you have claimed your benefits, you are able to withdraw your application, essentially cancelling it, and then reapply at a later age. For example, if you claimed your benefits at the earliest age of 62, you would only have until you turned age 63 to withdraw your application. If you withdrew within that timeframe, you could reapply any time after that up until age 70. You are limited to only one withdrawal per lifetime, and there are some important things to consider before making this decision.

When withdrawing your application, anyone else who received benefits based on your application (e.g. your spouse) must provide written consent. In addition, you are required to repay all of the benefits you and your family received from your application, including all of the money withheld from your Social Security checks for Medicare premiums, federal income taxes, and garnishments.

To withdraw your application, you’ll need to fill out a form (Social Security Form SSA-521opens PDF file at the time of this publication) and send it to your local Social Security office. Once it’s approved, you’ll have the option to cancel your withdrawal within 60 days if you change your mind.

Suspend Your Benefit Payments

If you’re no longer eligible to withdraw your application and reapply later, there’s another option to consider that also allows you to delay Social Security benefits until a later age. Assuming you have reached at least your Full Retirement Age (FRA), you are able to suspend your benefit payments and earn delayed retirement credits for each month you suspend them. When your benefit payments resume, which you can choose to be as late as age 70. This would result in a permanent 8% increase for each year your benefits were suspended.

For example, let’s assume you claimed your benefits at the earliest age of 62, but more than 12 months have passed and you are currently age 67, which is your FRA. If you suspend your benefits until age 70, you will not receive any benefits from age 67 to age 70. At age 70, you would start to receive your age 62 benefit amount increased by 24% for the rest of your lifetime (8% increase for each of the three years you suspended your benefits). You do not have to repay any of the benefits you have already received, but while your benefits are being suspended, you and your family cannot collect any benefits based on your work record. In addition, you cannot collect any spousal benefits based on your spouse’s work record.

Since Medicare premiums cannot be deducted from your suspended benefits, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services will bill you for your future Medicare premiums. To suspend your benefit payments, you’ll need to make a request by phone, in writing, or by visiting your local Social Security office.

The Bottom Line

Figuring out when to claim your Social Security retirement benefits is a complex decision that can have a lasting impact throughout you and your spouse’s lifetime. Whether you’re approaching the age at which you can start to claim Social Security benefits, or whether you have already started receiving your Social Security benefits, it’s important to understand your options in case you need to change your mind. Depending on your situation, you may qualify to withdraw your application or suspend your benefit payments, which can both provide some flexibility to your Social Security claiming strategy.

If you are considering one of these options and need assistance evaluating whether or not it makes sense for your specific financial situation, contact one of our financial advisors at Dowling & Yahnke Wealth Advisors, and our team would be happy to help you navigate this decision.

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