Will my work earnings affect my Social Security benefits?

Question: I am presently 67 years of age and am still working full time. I am receiving Medicare coverage, but I have not yet applied for monthly Social Security payments. I have been told that I can take SS payments even if I am still working. Is that correct? Is there a limit to how much I can earn each year and still receive SS payments? Signed: Working but Wondering

Dear Working: Social Security’s so-called “earnings test” applies only to those who haven’t yet reached their full retirement age. At 67 years of age, you are already past your SS full retirement age of 66 years and 2 months, which means there is no longer a limit to how much you can earn from working. Regardless of how much you earn, your monthly Social Security benefits will not be affected, so you can claim your Social Security at any time and not worry about your benefits being affected.

You should also know that because you haven’t yet claimed your Social Security, your monthly benefit has been growing since you reached your full retirement age in October of 2021. You’ve been earning Delayed Retirement Credits at the rate of .667 percent more benefit for each month you have delayed claiming, so your benefit now at 67 would be over 8 percent more than it would have been at your FRA last year. And, if you wish to, you can continue waiting to claim SS and continue to earn those DRCs to get a still higher benefit. But DRCs stop when you reach 70, when you would get your maximum Social Security benefit — about 31 percent more than your FRA amount – so never wait past age 70 to claim.

To recap: because you’ve already passed your full retirement age you can claim your SS benefit now (e.g., to start in January) and get a benefit which is 8+ percent more than you would have gotten if you claimed at your full retirement age, or you can continue to wait and get an even higher amount by claiming even later. Which way to go depends a lot on your current financial needs and your life expectancy. If you don’t urgently need the money now and are in good health and expect at least average longevity (about 84 for a man your current age), then waiting longer to claim would be a smart move. But if you need (or want) the money now, then claiming at this time would also be a wise choice. In either case, you don’t need to worry about your earnings from work negatively affecting your monthly Social Security benefit — they won’t.

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