Lower exempt amount
Higher exempt amount
Exempt amounts in 1975-99
Indexed program amounts
Work Affects Your Benefits
How the earnings test works
The retirement earnings test applies only to people below
normal retirement age (NRA). Social Security
withholds benefits if your earnings exceed a certain level, called a retirement
earnings test exempt amount, and if you are under your NRA. One of two
different exempt amounts apply — a lower amount in years before the year you
attain NRA and a higher amount in the year you attain NRA. These
exempt amounts generally increase annually with increases in the
national average wage index.
It is important to note that any benefits withheld while
you continue to work are not "lost". Once you reach NRA,
your monthly benefit will be increased permanently to account for the months in which benefits were withheld.
Exempt Amounts for 2021
We determine the exempt amounts using procedures defined in the Social
Security Act. For people attaining NRA after 2021, the annual
exempt amount in 2021 is $18,960.
For people attaining NRA in 2021, the annual exempt amount is
$50,520. This higher exempt amount
applies only to earnings made in months prior to the month of NRA attainment.
Benefits Withheld When Earnings Exceed Exempt Amounts
We withhold $1 in benefits for every $2 of earnings
in excess of the lower exempt amount. We withhold $1 in benefits for every $3
of earnings in excess of the higher exempt amount. Earnings in or after the
month you reach NRA do not count toward the retirement test.
Annual Retirement Earnings Test Exempt Amounts
||Lower amount a
||Higher amount b
|a Applies in years before the year of
b Applies in the year of attaining NRA, for months
prior to such attainment.
From 1983-1999 the higher exempt amounts applied at ages 65 through 69,
as shown in our historical series of exempt