How You Can Use Your Social Security Benefits as an Interest-Free Loan

One little-known Social Security retirement benefits rule is the so-called “do-over rule.” Under this rule, an individual 62 years or older can start collecting benefits but stop the benefits within 12 months of the start, repay the benefits collected, and then still be eligible for their higher benefit amount when they collect at full retirement age or older.
soc
What’s the advantage if the benefits must all be immediately repaid? The strategy can work as a short-term interest-free loan. It makes sense, for example, in cases where an individual has a need for income in the immediate short term, due to an emergency such as a sudden loss of employment, but anticipates income within the year that would allow for full repayment, i.e., finding a new job or collecting a pension. Many individuals in their early 60s have most of their assets tied up in retirement and investment accounts, and withdrawals from these accounts would trigger hefty penalties. After “emergency” liquid funds run out, the do-over rule offers a short-term solution. In addition, by drawing on a Social Security “loan” instead of investments, you allow your investments to continue growing.

What if you are unable to pay back the benefits after the 12 months are up? You may still be able to suspend your benefits and increase your ultimate pay-out amount. For example, if you start collecting at 62 but no longer need the income at 66, you could suspend benefits until 70. Then, between the ages of 66 and 70, you would earn delayed retirement credits which would increase the ultimate benefit amount when you collect at age 70.

(Note that up until December 2010, it was possible for you to collect benefits and repay at any time. The law has since changed so that you are limited to a 12-month pay back period. You are also only allowed one “do-over.”)

For more information on how to collect, suspend and pay back benefits, contact or visit your local Social Security district office. You can click here to find your local office.

Advertisements

Medicaid’s Gift to Children Who Help Parents Postpone Nursing Home Care:

In most states, transferring your house to your children (or someone else) may lead to a Medicaid penalty period, which would make you ineligible for Medicaid for a period of time. However, there are circumstances in which transferring a house will not result in a penalty period.

One of those circumstances is if the Medicaid applicant transfers the house to a “caretaker child.”  This is defined as a child of the applicant who lived in the house for at least two years prior to the applicant’s entering a nursing home and who during that period provided care that allowed the applicant to avoid a nursing home stay.  In such cases, the Medicaid applicant may freely transfer a home to the child without triggering a transfer penalty.  Note that the exception applies only to a child, not a grandchild or other relative.

Each state Medicaid agency has its own rules for proof that the child has lived with the parent and provided the necessary level of care, making it doubly important to consult with your elder law attorney before making this (or any other) kind of transfer.

Others to whom a home may be transferred without Medicaid’s usual penalty are:

  • Your spouse
  • A child who is under age 21 or who is blind or disabled
  • Into a trust for the sole benefit of a disabled individual under age 65 (even if the trust is for the benefit of the Medicaid applicant, under certain circumstances)
  • A sibling who has lived in the home during the year preceding the applicant’s institutionalization and who already holds an equity interest in the home

For more on Medicaid’s asset transfer rules, click here.