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Can I stop Social Security benefits if I go back to work?


Q. I turned 62 in June of this year. I’ve already signed up for my benefits and I should start receiving them in August. I’ve read a lot about when to start getting my benefits, such as receiving them early at age 62 or waiting until I’m 66 and 10 months. If for some reason I decide to go back to work full time, can I stop my benefits completely so I won’t be penalized for earning over the $18,000-plus a year maximum?
— Thinking it over

A. Congratulations on your retirement.

If you decide to go back to work full time, you can stop your Social Security benefits completely.

However there are some caveats to consider, specifically pertaining to the timing of when you return to work and how long ago you start taking benefits.

If you decide to return to work, you could apply for a “withdrawal of benefits” by submitting Social Security form SSA-521, but only if you started claiming Social Security retirement benefits within the last 12 months, said Ken Van Leeuwen, a certified financial planner with Van Leeuwen & Company in Princeton.

“Once you have received benefits for 12 months or longer, you cannot withdraw from benefits,” he said. “Should you withdraw your benefits within the first 12 months of collecting, you will be responsible for repaying what you have received so far.”

It is also important to note that you can only withdraw from your benefits once in your lifetime, Van Leeuwen said.

“If you decide to return to work once you reach full retirement age, you can voluntarily suspend your Social Security retirement benefits,” he said. “In doing so, you will earn delayed retirement credits, which will increase your Social Security payment when you decide to continue collecting.”

You will have to resume your benefits by age 70, he said.

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This story was originally published on July 21, 2021. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.