Clark Howard

Does the Social Security ‘Do-Over’ Option Still Exist?

One of the easiest ways to get a deluge of emails following a Clark Howard podcast segment is to bring up Social Security benefits.

Assuming you're eligible, you can collect Social Security starting at 62 years old. But you'll max out your benefit if you wait until age 70. Clark encourages almost everyone to wait until 70 — assuming you don't have major health problems or pressing financial needs.

It's a stance that causes a palpable and even emotional reaction among a sizeable portion of his audience. Among other reasons, some people are afraid the Social Security benefits the federal government provides will run out of funds.

However, if the recent projections have convinced you that Social Security will still be there when you retire and you wish you had waited to start your payments, you should know there's a Social Security do-over option. In other words, once you press that button and begin receiving your benefit, you do have a window to reverse that choice and wait longer.

What’s a Social Security Do-Over?

Does the Social Security do-over law still exist? Can I repay the government if I’ve started my benefit and then take payments at a higher rate later?

That’s what a Clark Howard listener recently asked.

Asked Jeff in Nebraska: "It used to be common when you answered questions about Social Security to mention the 'do-over' option where at a certain time you could pay back everything you took out of Social Security interest-free. And then you were able to restart your payments at a higher rate as if you had just started your benefit.

"I have not heard you talk about this in a very long time. Did the law change or are you having a senior moment?"

Do-Over Option 1: How To Withdraw Your Social Security Benefit

There are two ways you can execute a Social Security do-over. The method that Jeff mentioned, and that Clark has discussed in past years, is to withdraw your Social Security benefit.

You must meet two conditions:

  1. It must be less than 12 months after you started receiving Social Security checks.
  2. You cannot have filed to withdraw your Social Security benefits in the past.

According to the Social Security Administration, in addition to meeting those requirements, you must fill out an application to withdraw your benefits and repay all the benefits you already received.

You can then restart your benefits at a later date. This is significant because every year you wait before you reach your Full Retirement Age (FRA), your benefit will grow 5 to 8%.

Do-Over Option 2: How To Suspend Your Social Security Benefit

There’s another type of Social Security do-over with two eligibility requirements. You’re allowed to suspend your benefit if:

  1. You took Social Security benefits before you reached full retirement age (this chart will help you determine your FRA).
  2. You have now reached your FRA but you aren't yet 70 years old.

By suspending your benefits, your future benefit increases monthly (up to 8% per year you wait to restart it plus cost-of-living adjustments). If you haven't resumed taking your Social Security benefit by age 70, it will automatically restart.

Why Clark Is Waiting Until 70 To Take Social Security

Clark has talked publicly about his prostate cancer as well as the heart surgery he underwent in 2023. He’s 68 years old. Yet he’s still adamant about waiting until 70 to collect the largest possible check.

That way, his wife also gets the maximum possible benefit should he pass away.

None of the health issues he's encountered have changed his mind about delaying his Social Security benefit.

“The big advantage is that you get a much, much larger check the longer you wait,” Clark says.

“Many times people aren’t in a financial position to wait. And you have to take that check. Sometimes starting at age 62. But if you are financially able, you want to wait until age 70 barring the financial need or that your health is not good.”

Final Thoughts

A Social Security do-over is still possible. But you’ve got to reverse the decision to take Social Security within a year and meet other requirements.

You can also suspend your Social Security benefits to grow your future check if you meet eligibility requirements.

The post Does the Social Security 'Do-Over' Option Still Exist? appeared first on Clark Howard.

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