The answer to the question above is simple: Yes, you can suspend Social Security benefits. But should you? And how does it work? The answers to those questions are much more complicated.
I answer questions about Social Security (SS) on my weekly radio show, Money Matters. A recent question highlighted the complexity of the SS suspension rules. The listener who wrote had filed for early benefits at age 64, when he wasn’t working. He suspended his benefits a few months later, and didn’t repay what he had received. “Can I repay the money now at 66,” he wanted to know, “so I can file for a spousal benefit? It would definitely be to my advantage for me to take my Social Security based on my wife’s record.”
Before I tell you the answer to his question, let’s talk about how to suspend Social Security benefits and what it could mean to you (and your spouse). To begin with, suspending benefits is not the same as delaying them: It means you began receiving them and then stopped (like my radio show listener). A few things to know about voluntarily suspending retirement benefits1:
- You can suspend Social Security benefits until age 70.
- Suspending benefits will earn you delayed retirement credits so you’ll receive a higher benefit later.
- People who receive benefits on your record will not get benefits while yours are suspended, with the exception of divorced spouses.
- You may not receive benefits on someone else’s record while yours are suspended.
- If you decide you want your benefits reinstated, act fast. The Social Security Administration only allows benefit reinstatement the month after your initial request.
- Any Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits you may receive would also be suspended.
- You’ll need to pay your Medicare Part B premiums out-of-pocket, as they won’t be deducted from your suspended benefits.
And the answer to my listener’s question? Unfortunately, he’s too late. He had 12 months within which he could repay his benefits and essentially restart the whole process, but he opened his SS record two years ago. He missed a deadline he probably wasn’t even aware of.
As you can see, the answer to any question about suspending benefits depends on a variety of factors. If you’re thinking about suspending Social Security and would like individual assistance, we can help. Each of our credentialed Retirement Planners complete an extensive Social Security training, and can discuss all your options with you. Contact us today.
1This information pertains to retirement benefits only. Survivor benefits may have different rules.
Ken Moraif, CFP®, MBA
Senior Advisor at Retirement Planners of America