Suspending Social Security for a return to work

QI'm nearing retirement. What if I start taking Social Security checks, and then someone offers me an attractive job? Can I go off the system - stop taking checks - and then start up again at a later time?

Name withheld, via telephone

AYes, according to "Lynn O'Shaughnessy's Retirement Bible" (Hungry Minds). If you do stop, the check amount will be recalculated when you resume taking checks. The recalculation will also take into account any increased earnings you may have had.

QCan I leave my IRA to anyone I want to upon my demise? Does it have to be a close family member? What about a charitable group? What if I decide to change a beneficiary?

A.E., Washington

AAccording to a spokesman for Fidelity Investments in Boston, you can leave your IRA to anyone, or any group, that you designate. You can also change your beneficiary whenever you want.

QI am currently incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and have past Stafford student loans that are in default. I have tried on several occasions to get my loans consolidated and into deferment status, but have not had any success. Whom can I contact to consolidate the loans? I would like to take advantage of lowered interest rates.

J.P., Cuero, Texas

AContact the Department of Education at 800-557-7392, or go online to fill out an application (

According to a representative, defaulted loans can be consolidated, except those that are in judgement - that is, involved in a court process. To seek a deferment on your payments, you will have to call another number, the department's service center, at 800-848-0979.

QShould I assume that the amount of money I'll receive from my company's pension plan is correct? What if my pension office made errors in its calculation?

Name withheld, New York

AMistakes can occur, according to the "Retirement Bible." For free advice in double-checking your pension schedule and amount, contact the American Academy of Actuaries, at 202-223-8196.

If there is a mistake, then you must take up the matter directly with your company's benefits office.

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