Q&A:Getting bum info from Social Security

Dear Liz: After taking Social Security early at 62, I have called, written and visited in person asking to have my benefit suspended so it can earn delayed retirement credits. Nothing has worked. Social Security representatives say I cannot change anything after the first 12 months.

I turn 66 this month and wanted to get this done.

Answer: The employees you’re talking to are confusing benefit suspension with application withdrawal.

As you know, Social Security benefits grow by 5% to 8% each year you delay between 62 and 70. Starting early can be an expensive mistake that permanently reduces the amount you receive over your lifetime.

There are two potential ways to fix the mistake. One is a withdrawal, where you rescind your application and pay back the money you’ve received. Withdrawals are a “do over” that resets the clock entirely on your benefit so that it’s as if you never applied. Withdrawals are only allowed in the first 12 months after your application.

A suspension, on the other hand, is when you ask Social Security to halt your benefit so that it can earn delayed retirement credits. You don’t have to pay any money back, but you also don’t get to reset the clock. Instead, the benefit you’re currently receiving is allowed to earn delayed retirement credits. You can only suspend your benefit once you’ve reached full retirement age. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66.

Social Security explains how suspension works online in the retirement section. You might want to print that out and take it with you to the Social Security office. If someone again tries to tell you that suspension isn’t allowed, ask to speak to a manager. This is your right, and it could make a big difference in providing you a more comfortable retirement.

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