Getting Benefits While Working
You can work while you receive Social Security retirement (or survivors) benefits. When you do, it could mean a higher benefit for you in the future.
Each year we review the records for all working Social Security recipients. If your earnings for the prior year are higher than one of the years we used to compute your retirement benefit, we will recalculate your benefit amount. We pay the increase retroactive to January the year after you earned the money.
Higher benefits can be important to you later in life and increase the future benefit amounts your family and your survivors could receive.
How Much Can I Earn And Still Get Benefits?
If you are younger than full retirement age and make more than the yearly earnings limit, your earnings may reduce your benefit amount. (Full retirement age is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954. Beginning with 1955, two months are added for every birth year until the full retirement age reaches 67 for people born in 1960 or later.)
If you are under full retirement age for the entire year, we deduct $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 you earn above the annual limit. For 2020, that limit is $18,240.In the year you reach full retirement age, we deduct $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above a different limit. In 2020, the limit on your earnings is $48,600 but we only count earnings before the month you reach your full retirement age.
When you reach full retirement age:
- Beginning with the month you reach full retirement age, your earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn.
- We will recalculate your benefit amount to leave out the months when we reduced or withheld benefits due to your excess earnings.
If You Are Working Outside The United States
If you work outside the United States, the rules for receiving benefits while you are working are different. For more information, please read Work Outside the United States.
When You Should Contact Us
If you are not already receiving benefits, be sure to contact us at the beginning of the year you reach full retirement age. Even if you are still working, you may be able to receive some or all of your benefits for the months before you reach full retirement age.
How We Deduct Earnings From Benefits
In 2020, the annual earnings limit is $18,240 if you’re under full retirement age. If you will reach full retirement age in 2020, the limit on your earnings for the months before full retirement age is $48,600.
Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, there is no limit on how much you can earn and still receive your benefits.
Let's look at a couple of examples: You are receiving Social Security retirement benefits every month in 2020 and you:
Are under full retirement age all year. You are entitled to $800 a month in benefits.
($9,600 for the year)
You work and earn $28,240 ($10,000 over the $18,240 limit) during the year. Your Social Security benefits would be reduced by $5,000 ($1 for every $2 you earned over the limit), but you would still receive $4,600 of your $9,600 in benefits for the year.
($9,600 - $5,000 = $4,600)
Reach full retirement age in August 2020. You are entitled to $800 per month in benefits.
($9,600 for the year)
You work and earn $63,000 during the year, with $50,718 of it in the 7 months from January through July.
($2,118 over the $48,600 limit)
Your Social Security benefits would be reduced through July by $706 ($1 for every $3 you earned over the limit). You would still receive $4,894 out of your $5,600 benefits for the first 7 months ($800 a month January through July).
($5,600 - $706 = $4,894)
Beginning in August 2019, when you reach full retirement age, you would receive your full benefit ($800 per month), no matter how much you earn.
When we figure out how much to deduct from your benefits, we count only the wages you make from your job or your net profit if you're self-employed. We include bonuses, commissions and vacation pay. We don't count pensions, annuities, investment income, interest, veterans or other government or military retirement benefits.
Also, as long as you continue to work and receive benefits, we will check your record every year to see whether the additional earnings will increase your monthly benefit. If there is an increase, we will send you a letter telling you of your new benefit amount.
In addition, after you reach full retirement age, we will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for any months in which you did not receive a benefit because of your earnings. We will send you a letter telling you about any increase in your benefit amount.
If you are eligible for retirement benefits this year and are still working, you can use our earnings test calculator to see how your earnings could affect your benefit payments.