Should I Claim Social Security Now Due to the Coronavirus?

Senior woman at home
Photo by Elnur / Shutterstock.com

Welcome to our “Social Security Q&A” series. You ask a question about Social Security, and a guest expert answers it.

You can learn how to ask a question of your own below. And if you would like a personalized report detailing your optimal Social Security claiming strategy, click here. Check it out: It could result in receiving thousands of dollars more in benefits over your lifetime!

Today’s question comes from Stephanie:

“Is it possible to get income from Social Security by claiming Social Security now if I need financial help during this period where people are being forced to stay home during the COVID-19 period?”

Using Social Security as a short-term loan

Stephanie: It is possible to claim Social Security benefits at any time after 62 (60 if you are a widow or widower), but normally a claiming decision is final. If you were planning to delay claiming so that you would receive higher benefits later, claiming Social Security benefits now could mean that your benefits will be lower for the rest of your life.

There is a way around this, but it might not be satisfactory.

If you claim benefits now, you still have the option of changing your mind for the next 12 months. That is, you could claim benefits now and receive benefits that might help tide you over for a short period of time, and then tell the Social Security Administration that you want to reverse that decision.

There are two caveats, however:

  1. You are unlikely to receive your benefits immediately. So, if you have really pressing financial needs, you will still have to find another source of funds until your first check arrives.
  2. You will have to pay back any benefits that you received when you inform Social Security that you want to reverse your decision. Thus, this could be considered an interest-free short-term loan, but as with any loan, you will have to pay it back.

If your income is below certain limits, you can expect to receive the $1,200 per person that is being sent out as part of the $2 trillion federal stimulus package intended to support the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. How soon this money will arrive depends on whether the government has your bank information so it can send the money to you as a direct deposit. (In fact, you may have already received this money.)

If the government has to write a check, it could take much longer to receive your money. There has been some confusion about whether you need to file a tax return to receive this money. If you receive a Social Security check through direct deposit, your money should come reasonably soon regardless of whether you file a tax return.

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The questions I’m likeliest to answer are those that will interest other readers. So, it’s better not to ask for super-specific advice that applies only to you.

About me

I hold a doctorate in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and taught economics at the University of Delaware for many years. Presently, I am teaching at Gallaudet University.

In 2009, I co-founded SocialSecurityChoices.com, an internet company that provides advice on Social Security claiming decisions. You can learn more about that by clicking here.

Disclaimer: We strive to provide accurate information with regard to the subject matter covered. It is offered with the understanding that we are not offering legal, accounting, investment or other professional advice or services, and that the SSA alone makes all final determinations on your eligibility for benefits and the benefit amounts. Our advice on claiming strategies does not comprise a comprehensive financial plan. You should consult with your financial adviser regarding your individual situation.

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