change your mind
July 9, 2014 | by Chris Stein, CFP®, Finance Instructor at Colorado State University
Changing Your Mind on Claiming Social Security Benefits

When you're done reading, be sure to listen to our audio blog below!

People often decide to claim Social Security benefits without fully understanding the ramifications of their decision.  When you file will determine your payments for all your remaining years, so a mistake here can linger with you for the rest of your life.  So what if you file but then later realize you made a mistake?  Can you change your mind?  The answer is yes, but only for a short period of time.

Under current Social Security rules, you are allowed to withdraw your application for benefits once, and only if you do this within 12 months of filing for benefits.  If you decide to change your mind like this, there are several things to be aware of:

  1. You must pay back all benefits paid to you, and to anyone else who claimed based on your benefit.  This includes your spouse, children, or others whose ability to claim started with your original application.  This includes any amounts withheld for taxes or Medicare premiums, meaning you must pay back the gross amount, not just the amount they actually sent you each month.
  2. All others who received benefits off your claim (like a spouse or children) must consent in writing to the withdrawal.
  3. You must submit Social Security Form SSA-521 within 12 months of your original application for benefits.  This is a fairly recent change as of 2010.  Prior to that time there was no limit to how long you could wait before filing to withdraw your application.
  4. Once you file Form 521 they will notify you of the exact amount that you need to repay to finalize the withdrawal of your application.

Your ability to change your mind will depend on if you can fulfill all the above requirements.  If you cannot pay back all benefits received then you will not be able to change your mind and are stuck with your original decision.  One thing to note is that once reaching Full Retirement Age you can suspend your benefits and begin accruing delayed retirement credits.  So there is a way to make a small change to your claiming strategy once your reach FRA.  See discussions about suspending retirement benefits in our other blog post.

If this or any other Social Security option is of interest to you and you have more questions about your specific situation, please feel free to contact us.  And be sure to listen to the audio post below for a discussion of this topic.

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