Choosing the right age to apply for social security is critical to maximizing lifetime benefits. Wait too long and you may lose Social Security altogether. Sign up too early and it could cost you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your life.
It’s easy enough to sign up for benefits initially, but once you do, it’s much harder to deal with the consequences of applying for social security prematurely. But you may not be out of luck. There are a few things you can try to correct your mistake and increase your future checks.
What is the best age to apply for social security?
First, you need to determine the right time to start collecting Social Security to decide if you signed up too early. There is technically no “best” age – it all depends on your year of birth, your life expectancy and your finances.
The Social Security Administration assigns everyone a full retirement age (FRA) based on the year of birth. It’s anywhere from 66 to 67 for today’s workers. You must wait until this age to inquire if you want the full monthly benefit you have earned based on your work history. Signing up early reduces your checks, signing up later increases them.
If you have a lot of personal savings to help you with your bills, it’s often best to delay your benefits unless you have a terminal illness or another reason to believe you won’t live long. If so, you should sign up for 62 right away so you can claim the benefits for as long as possible before you die.
Those who think they will live to be 80 or beyond often get more lifetime benefits by waiting to enroll in Social Security. Some even choose to delay up to 70 years, when they qualify for the maximum monthly benefit.
What happens if I sign up for Social Security too early?
If you signed up for Social Security early and now regret your decision, you may be able to withdraw your application as long as it’s been less than 12 months since you applied. But there are some catches.
First, you must pay back any money you and your family have received from Social Security so far. This includes marital benefits and benefits for dependent children, if you have any. This means that written permission from your family is required to proceed with the withdrawal of the application.
The other problem is that this is a one time deal. If you withdraw your Social Security application, the next time you apply, it is final. You can’t change your mind again.
If you decide to proceed with the withdrawal of your application, please fill out the SSA-521 form and submit it to your local social security office. Once this is done, the Social Security Administration will treat you as if you have never applied for benefits.
What if i’m too late to withdraw my social security application?
You cannot withdraw your application if it has been more than a year since you started applying for Social Security or if you are unable to repay all the benefits you have received so far. But if you have achieved your FRA, you can ask the Social Security Administration to suspend your benefits.
Once this is done, you will stop receiving checks until you turn 70 or request that the Social Security Administration start sending them back to you. In the meantime, you will accumulate deferred retirement credits. When you start getting benefits again, your future benefits will be larger than before, but they won’t be as big as they would have been if you had delayed your Social Security application by up to 70 in the first place.
Suspension of the benefit does not require reimbursement of any money that you or your family members have already received from Social Security. That said, it’s still a good idea to talk about the move with anyone else who claims your work record. Once the benefits are suspended, they too will stop receiving checks.
To request the suspension of the benefit, contact your local social security office by phone, in person or in writing. The suspension begins the month following the month in which the suspension request is made. So if you ask the government to suspend your checks in August, it will do so starting in September.
Those are a few more hoops to overcome, but they could make a lasting difference to your Social Security checks. If you don’t need your advantage today and want to get the most out of the program, consider trying one of the two options above.
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