Am I Able To Get Social Security Retirement Benefits If I'm Working?

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You can get Social Security retirement benefits and continue to work. Beginning in the month you reach full retirement age, you can get full benefits without limits on your earnings. If you apply for benefits at age 62 or before full retirement age, any wages you earn will reduce the amount you receive in benefits. However, these benefits are not lost. Whatever is withheld now will end up increasing your benefits once you reach full retirement age.

There is a formula for how much your benefit is reduced if you start taking benefits before full retirement age. Social Security will deduct $1 in benefit payments for every $2 you earn above the annual limit, which for 2019 is $17,640.

In the year that you reach full retirement age but before the month of your birthday, Social Security will deduct $1 in benefit payments for every $3 you earn beyond $46,920 as of 2019.

When you reach full retirement age your earnings will no longer reduce your benefits no matter how much you earn beginning with the month you reach full retirement age. The Social Security Administration will recalculate your benefit amount to exclude months when your benefits were reduced or withheld due to excessive earnings.

Benefits Before Full Retirement Age

Income from things like government benefits, investments, pensions, and annuities are not counted toward the earnings limit, but your contribution to a retirement plan will be counted in your gross earnings.

There is a special earnings rule that applies if your earnings are over the limit during the first year of retirement. Under this rule, you can get a full Social Security check for any whole month that you are considered retired regardless of your annual earnings. If you will not reach full retirement age—66 for someone born in 1953—during the year you retire, you are considered retired in any month that your earnings are less than $1,410 and you were not self-employed. If you do turn 66 that year, you are considered retired in any month that your earnings are $3,740 or less and you were not self-employed.

The rule actually refers to self-employment as "substantial services in self-employment." Social Security defines retirement in very specific terms. You are retired if you work less than 15 hours per month. You are definitely not retired if you work more than 45 hours per month. If you work somewhere in between 15 and 45 hours a month, your retirement status depends on the type of work you do. Highly skilled professionals working more than 15 hours a month are generally considered not retired by Social Security.

Deciding When to Receive Benefits

Choosing what age to start your Social Security benefits is an important decision, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Ultimately, you have to make the best decision for your unique situation.

Factors to consider in addition to understanding how work will affect your Social Security decision include your health history, family longevity history, how you will obtain health insurance, and if you have enough income to allow you to delay starting your benefits.

Disclaimer: Please seek legal assistance or assistance from state, federal, or international governmental resources to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. The Social Security Administration answers questions via its hotline at (800) 772-1213. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only.