How to Withdraw from Social Security to Increase Your Benefits for Later Retirement

Some workers choose to retire early, collect a reduced amount of Social Security, and count on other retirement income to stay financially comfortable. But what if your 401k suddenly plunges in value, or your pension tanks all together? It's possible to more or less un-retire, get back in the workforce and reset the clock on Social Security so you can collect higher retirement checks.

Work the numbers on Social Security withdrawal. There's a big difference between minimum and maximum Social Security retirement income. Start collecting at age 62, and your full benefit is greatly reduced. Wait until full retirement age -- 65 for most retirees currently, or 66 for those born in 1960 or later -- and the benefit rises. Wait until age 70, and it maxes out.

Check the SSA retirement planner. The Social Security Administration has an online Retirement Planner which includes a section called "If You Change Your Mind." (Find a link in the References section.) Have a look at this to weigh the pros and cons about withdrawing your Social Security claim, so you can start over later.

One of the key considerations is payback. You must repay Uncle Sam whatever benefits you have received in order to collect Social Security at a later date. Since this can be a substantial financial outlay, it must be weighed carefully against future benefits.

Submit a request for withdrawal. If starting over later on seems the right choice for you, then you'll have to request that your current Social Security benefits be withdrawn, and you'll need to repay any amounts already received. The form is SSA-521, "Request for Withdrawal of Application". Find a link in the References section.

Note that even after the form is submitted, you still have at least two months to cancel the request if you change your mind about getting back in the workforce.


  • Remember, withdrawal applies to Social Security benefits for retirement, and is distinct from Social Security disability benefits.


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