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You can change your mind

Imagine you’re in your 60s and you’ve already claimed your Social Security benefits — but then you land an amazing high-paying job and decide you can put off collecting benefits. After all, delaying claiming until age 70 gives you the maximum retirement benefit.

So can you change your mind? Yes, under certain conditions.

If it’s been less than 12 months since you claimed the benefits, you can withdraw your application and apply again later. To do this you need to fill out and mail Form SSA-521 to your local Social Security office. Anyone else who receives benefits based on your application must consent in writing as well.

You’ll need to have some savings set aside, though. When you withdraw your application, you’ll be required to repay any benefits you and your family received from the application (whether they live with you or not). This includes any money that was withheld from your checks, including Medicare premiums, tax withholdings and garnishments.

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You can claim benefits based on your ex’s record

If you’re divorced and entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, you may be able to claim benefits under your ex-spouse’s record. Under the rules, you may be entitled to up to half of your ex’s retirement benefits — and it won’t decrease the amount your ex or their current spouse receives either.

To claim based on your ex-spouse’s record, the benefits you’ll receive must be higher than the ones you’ll receive based on your own record. This only applies if you were married for at least 10 years, you’re currently unmarried and you’re at least 62 years of age.

If your ex hasn’t yet claimed their benefits but you want to, you can still claim based on their record if you’ve been divorced for at least two continuous years, as long as they qualify for benefits.

If you choose this option, your benefits will be based on your own record first. Then, if the benefit based on your spouse’s record is higher, you’ll get an additional amount so the total benefit equals the higher amount.

You can still work while you’re receiving benefits

It’s a common misconception that you can’t work once you start receiving Social Security retirement or survivor’s benefits.

If you’re younger than full retirement age, your benefit payments may be reduced based on any income you earn. In 2024, if you’re under full retirement age for the entire year, $1 will be deducted for every $2 you earn above $22,320.

In the year you reach what’s considered your full retirement age, $1 is deducted for every $3 you earn above $59,520 (2024 limit), based on your earnings up to the month before you reach full retirement age.

Once you reach full retirement age, no amount of earnings will reduce your benefits — and your benefits will be recalculated so you get credit for the amount that was reduced that year due to earnings.

Working might ultimately help you receive a higher benefit as well.

Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews the records of everyone receiving benefits and reporting wages for the previous year. If your latest year of earnings is one of your highest, then they’ll recalculate your benefit and pay you any increase, retroactive to January of the year after you earned the money.

Effectively navigating the Social Security system can have a material effect on your retirement income. It can be invaluable to engage a financial planner to navigate the system and ensure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to.

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Vawn Himmelsbach Freelance Contributor

Vawn Himmelsbach is a journalist who has been covering tech, business and travel for more than two decades. Her work has been published in a variety of publications, including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, CBC News, ITbusiness, CAA Magazine, Zoomer, BOLD Magazine and Travelweek, among others.

Disclaimer

The content provided on Moneywise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.