What Happens If You Want To Stop Social Security and Go Back To Work?

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Social Security benefits can be a great help for retirees, but knowing exactly when to claim them can also be confusing. This is particularly true if you claim your benefits but then get a good work opportunity. As Social Security benefits don’t typically pay you more than you could earn with a real job, you might wonder what your options are to stop your Social Security without losing it. The good news is that the Social Security Administration does offer such a provision, but only as a one-time scenario. Here’s how to take advantage of it.

Helpful: All You Need To Know About Collecting Social Security While Still Working
Find Out: All the States That Don’t Tax Social Security 

How To Stop Social Security If You Go Back To Work

You’ll have to file what’s known as a “withdrawal of benefits” if you want to suspend your Social Security payments and go back to work. You can only do this if you’ve filed for your retirement benefits within the previous 12 months, however. At that time, you’ll also have to repay everything that you’ve earned from Social Security thus far, and this includes any benefits paid to your spouse, children or other beneficiaries. At that point, the Social Security Administration will treat your filing as if it never occurred. Bear in mind that since other beneficiaries may be affected, the Social Security Administration requires them to sign a consent form as well.

Retire Comfortably

To withdraw your benefits, you’ll have to file Form SSA-521. At that point, you’ll still have up to 60 days to reconsider and withdraw your application if you so desire. Otherwise, your request will be processed, and you’ll have to return the money that you received.

Find Out: Americans Don’t Understand These Facts About Social Security
See: You Should Check Your Social Security Balance Regularly — Here’s Why

What If I’m Too Late To Stop My Social Security?

If you missed your window to withdraw your Social Security benefits — meaning it’s been at least 12 months since you began receiving benefits — you’re too late to stop Social Security benefits. However, there is an alternate strategy you can employ. Once you reach full retirement age, which is 67 for most current workers, you can elect to suspend your retirement benefits. Under this scenario, you won’t be responsible for paying back any benefits you’ve already earned. Instead, you’ll start earning delayed retirement credits. This means that when you resume collecting benefits, which you must do no later than age 70, your monthly Social Security payouts will be higher, to the tune of about 8% for each year that you defer them.

Retire Comfortably

If you’re working during the years you suspend payments, you might be able to enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes to your income. The money you earn from working during those years will likely be more than your Social Security payout would have been, and in the meantime, your Social Security benefit is growing by a significant amount every year without any effort from you.

Learn: 5 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About Social Security
Avoid These: 11 Social Security Mistakes That Can Cost You a Fortune 

The Bottom Line

Social Security was never intended to be an income replacement fund. If you have a good job opportunity or prefer to work into what most people consider retirement age, then you should. Your Social Security won’t go away, and in fact, your ultimate payout will grow the longer you defer it, at least until age 70. If you’ve already filed for Social Security benefits but intend to return to work, you should likely consult with your financial or tax advisor to help you implement the optimal Social Security strategy.

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Last updated: Nov. 1, 2021 

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