Work can increase Social Security benefits

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Q. If you already collecting Social Security but are still paying into it with a part-time job, do benefits ever increase besides cost of living?
— Still working

A. Working while receiving Social Security can make your benefits go up, but not necessarily in a straight line depending on how much you earn.

We checked in with Social Security, which directed us to its publication “How Work Affects Your Benefits.”

It said you can get Social Security retirement benefits and work at the same time. But if you’re younger than full retirement age and earn more than certain amounts, your benefits will be reduced.

“The amount that your benefits are reduced, however, isn’t truly lost,” it said. “Your benefit will increase at your full retirement age to account for benefits withheld due to earlier earnings.”

It said if you’re younger than full retirement age during all of 2017, Social Security will deduct $1 from your benefits for each $2 you earn above $16,920. If you reach full retirement age during 2017, it will deduct $1 from your benefits for each $3 you earn above $44,880 until the month you reach full retirement age.

Sometimes people who retire in mid-year already have earned more than the annual earnings limit, Social Security said. That’s why there is a special rule that applies to earnings for one year — usually the first year of retirement.

“Under this rule, you can get a full Social Security check for any whole month you’re retired, regardless of your yearly earnings,” it said. “In 2017, a person younger than full retirement age for the entire year is considered retired if monthly earnings are $1,410 or less.”

Then Social Security will adjust the amount of your benefits in 2017 based on what you told the agency you would earn in 2017. If you think your earnings for 2017 will be different from what you originally told Social Security, it said, you should alert the agency right away.

“If some of your retirement benefits are withheld because of your earnings, your monthly benefit will increase starting at your full retirement age to take into account those months in which benefits were withheld,” it said.

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This post was first published in December 2017. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.