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Hopefully, you’ll enter retirement with a decent chunk of money in savings. But even then, you might end up pretty heavily reliant on Social Security once you see how expensive life can be when you’re not working.

That’s why it’s so important to know the ins and outs of Social Security. Here are three rules that are essential to know before your retirement rolls around.

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1. You can only accrue delayed retirement credits until age 70

You’re entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit based on your personal income history once you reach full retirement age, or FRA. That age hinges on your year of birth, and it’s 67 if you were born in 1960 or later.

You’re also allowed to delay your Social Security filing past FRA for a higher monthly benefit. And you may be inclined to do that if you’re entering retirement without a lot of savings and eager to compensate for that.

But one thing to know is that the delayed retirement credits that result in boosted Social Security benefits can’t be racked up any longer once you turn 70. So don’t assume that you can keep delaying your claim indefinitely, because there is a limit as to how much of a boost you’ll be able to snag.

Because of this rule, it doesn’t make financial sense to delay your Social Security claim beyond the age of 70. Doing so, in fact, might cause you to lose out on money you’d otherwise be entitled to.

2. You can’t grow a spousal benefit

You can raise your monthly Social Security income for life by delaying your filing when you’re claiming benefits on your personal earnings record. But if you’re claiming a spousal benefit, instead, that tactic won’t work.

There’s no such thing as boosting a spousal benefit — period. The most you can hope for is 50% of what your current or former spouse is entitled to from Social Security. And you’ll be eligible for your full spousal benefit at FRA. But there’s no sense in telling yourself to wait beyond that age to file.

3. You can’t undo your filing unless you repay the benefits you received in full

You’re allowed to claim Social Security ahead of FRA for a reduced benefit. The earliest age to do this is 62.

Social Security will also allow you to undo your filing once in your lifetime if you decide that you want to sign up at a later point in time for a higher monthly payday. But to take advantage of that option, you must be able to not only withdraw your application for benefits within 12 months, but also, repay every dollar in Social Security you’ve received.

Withdrawing an application isn’t difficult to do. Repaying what could be up to a year’s worth of benefits is another story. So you may want to spend some time landing on an optimal filing age from the start so you don’t have to stress over being able to afford the do-over option.

Social Security might end up playing an important role in your retirement. To make the most of it, commit these rules to memory so you have a better understanding of how the program works.

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