Planning for Earned Income in Retirement

If you're like a lot of people, retirement won't be the world of gardening, golfing, traveling, and tennis you once envisioned. Rather, retirement will mean relaxing and working. Maybe you've retired from your "regular" job and started a business, or perhaps you want to work part-time just to stay busy. However, if you work after you start receiving Social Security retirement benefits, your earnings may affect the amount of your benefit check.

How your earnings affect your benefit

Your earnings in retirement may increase your retirement benefit

Your monthly Social Security retirement benefit is based on your lifetime earnings. When you become entitled to retirement benefits at age 62, the Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates your primary insurance amount (PIA) upon which your retirement benefit will be based. Later, your PIA will be recalculated annually if you have had any new earnings that might substantially increase your benefit.

Your earnings in retirement may decrease your retirement benefit

If you earn income over a certain limit by working after you begin receiving retirement benefits, your benefit may be reduced proportionately. This limit, known as the retirement earnings test exempt amount, affects only beneficiaries under full retirement age. The benefit reduction is based on your annual earnings and is not permanent; your monthly benefit is reduced starting in January of the year following the year you had excess earnings and will be reduced until the excess earnings are used up.

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