Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later. If born before 1954 there are some options still available, but these are limited as well. Please see the article The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details.
We’ve discussed the File and Suspend activity many times on this blog, but most of the time we refer to the activity as happening all at the same time. This is because very often we’re talking about one spouse setting the table for the other spouse to begin receiving Spousal Benefits.
There is another situation where File and Suspend could be used – you could earn delayed retirement credits after you had already started receiving your retirement benefits by suspending your benefit. You must be at least Full Retirement Age (FRA) when you do this, but it could work in your situation.
Say for example, you started receiving your benefit at age 62. At that point you were retired, and you intended to just play golf for the rest of your life. After about 180 holes a week for the first two years, you decide that you’d rather poke yourself in the eye than listen to the same old stories from your duffer buddies again, and you go back to work.
As you return to work, it turns out that you’re earning much more than the earnings limits allow, and as such your retirement benefit is completely withheld. There’s not much you can do about it since you’re only 64 at this point, so you just let SSA do their thing – knowing that you’ll get your payback in credits for those months when your benefit was withheld after you reach FRA.
But, when you reach FRA, you’re still working – and you don’t need the Social Security benefit to live on. At this point you could Suspend your application and stop receiving benefits altogether (since you haven’t been receiving them anyhow) and begin accruing Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs) on your benefit.
If your FRA was 66, you could accrue 32% (8% per year or 2/3% per month) in DRCs. Your new benefit would be calculated in a rather convoluted fashion by reducing the benefit for the two years that you received them (between ages 62 & 64) and then increasing the benefit by the 32% of DRCs.
So if your Primary Insurance Amount (the unreduced benefit that you would have received at FRA) was $2,000, since you had 24 months of early benefits the first part of the calculation would be to reduce that $2,000 by 13.34% (6.67% per year). Then that amount would be increased by the DRCs that you accrued, 32%. So:
$2,000 times 86.66% times 132% equals $2,287.80
The total benefit that you could receive at age 70 would be $2,287.80 – although your PIA could have adjusted due to your additional earnings, if those earnings replaced lower earning years on your record.