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Social Security: How to fix a filing mistake

JUL. 04, 2018

A recent survey found that most future retirees do not anticipate taking Social Security before 66¹, when in reality, most retirees file before their full retirement age²(FRA). This disconnect may result in retirees regretting their decision to file early. If you have clients who believe they have made a mistake by filing too early, assure them they may still have options to change or alter their benefits.

Option 1 – Paying back Social Security

If your client changes their mind within the first 12 months of electing benefits, the best option is to file a form 521 to withdraw the application and pay back any benefits received. This includes their benefits, but also any received by others, such as a spouse or children.

Once benefits have been repaid, your client would be treated as if they never elected and would not receive reduced benefits due to the original filing.

Option 2 –Return to work

If withdrawing their application is not an option, returning to work could help. Social Security has an “earnings test” that may reduce or eliminate benefits for those who file before their FRA and continue working. In 2018, $1 is withheld for every $2 earned above $17,040. (If your client files in the same year they will reach their FRA, it changes to $1 being withheld for every $3 above $45,360.) Benefits are no longer withheld once they reach their FRA.

It is important to note that any benefits withheld while your clients continue to work are not “lost.” Once they reach their FRA, their monthly benefit will be increased permanently to account for the months in which benefits were withheld.

Option 3 – Maximize benefits for your spouse who hasn’t yet elected

Even if one member of a couple already filed, there are still planning opportunities worth exploring. You can run an analysis to identify all possible claiming options given a couple’s unique situation, including the possibility of claiming a spousal benefit.

Nationwide’s Social Security 360 Analyzer® generates all possible claiming options for a given client or couple. You can specify the spouse who has already elected, and the tool will automatically identify the highest lifetime benefit for the couple given that constraint.

Clients still have options if they regret taking Social Security

Considering most retirees file early for Social Security, locking in reduced benefits for life, you’re bound to have clients who wish they would have waited. If so, assure them they still have options and explore these opportunities to help them find the best solution.

Sources

  • 1

    Social Security Consumer Survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Nationwide Retirement Institute, 2018.

  • 2

    Nationwide Retirement Institute Social Security 6th Annual Consumer Survey, Nationwide Financial 2019

  • *

    Information on the earnings test and paying back benefits was sourced from SSA.gov.

  • **

    This information is general in nature and is not intended to be tax, legal, accounting or other professional advice. The information provided is based on current laws, which are subject to change at any time, and has not been endorsed by any government agency.

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