Why You Might Pause Social Security Benefits Now to Get More Money Later

Once you've started taking Social Security, you have a small window of time to change your mind.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
Expertise Personal Finance: Social Security and taxes
Katie Teague
3 min read
three $100 bills

You can pause your Social Security benefits up to a year after you start receiving them.

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Though many Americans start taking Social Security benefits as early as possible -- age 62 -- recent research shows that you'd save a lot of money by starting later. A Jan. 2023 paper in the Journal of Accounting says people who wait until 70 to start Social Security get benefit checks that are 77 percent greater when adjusted for inflation. 

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However, If you've started taking Social Security benefits early, you do have a chance to change your mind.

I'll explain: If you start drawing your benefits at age 62, you'll get a reduced amount each month, as opposed to getting your full amount by waiting until age 67 to retire. The Social Security Administration gives you 12 months from the time you applied to start receiving benefits to withdraw your retirement application if you change your mind for any reason -- for instance, you were offered a high-paying job and can hold off on collecting benefits.

Keep reading to learn how long you have to stop your Social Security benefits, and what happens if you do. For more, here's the Social Security payment schedule and how to check your statements online.

What you need to know about pausing your benefits

If you'd like to withdraw your Social Security application, there are a few things you need to know first.

  • You only have 12 months from when you became entitled to Social Security benefits to make the decision. So if you've been receiving benefits for several years, you won't be eligible to pause your payments.
  • You can only withdraw once in your lifetime.
  • You'll have to pay back all the money you and your family received from Social Security (see below).
  • If others receive benefits based on your application, they must consent to withdrawing your application.

You'll need to pay money back from Social Security benefits

If you decide to stop receiving benefits at this time, you'll need to pay back what you and your family have already received from Social Security. That includes:

  • Benefits your spouse or children received, even if they don't live with you.
  • Money withheld from your Social Security retirement checks for Medicare Part B, Part C or Part D premiums.
  • Voluntary tax withholding of federal income taxes.
  • Garnishments, including child support and alimony, civil penalties, overdue federal taxes or if you owe a federal agency for a nontax debt.
$100 bills bursting out of a brown leather wallet

You could potentially get more cash, depending on how long you pause your benefits.

James Martin/CNET

Here's how to pause your Social Security benefits

Ready to withdraw your benefits? Here's what to do.

1. Fill out Social Security Form SSA-521 (PDF). You'll need to provide information like your Social Security number, the benefit you'd like to withdraw from and the reason. You can also choose whether you'd like to keep your Medicare benefits (if applicable).

2. Next, you'll send that completed form to your nearest Social Security office.

The Social Security Administration will contact you once a decision is made about your withdrawal. If approved, the administration will also let you know how much money you'll need to pay back. 

If you change your mind about ending your benefits, you have 60 days to cancel your withdrawal application.

For more information, here are six important things to know about your Social Security money. Also, here's how your Social Security benefits are calculated and the best time to collect them.