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Avoiding the Earnings Penalty

After full retirement age, you can earn as much as you want

En español | Q. I'd like to know when I can take my Social Security and continue to earn as much money as I want without losing any of my benefits. I was born on April 28, 1946.

A. The main thing you have to do is be patient and wait a few months until you turn 66. That's your full retirement age, because you were born in 1946. When you reach that age, you'll be allowed to take your Social Security retirement benefits and earn any amount without losing any of your payments.

See also: Tell your Social Security story to the world.

As you know, Social Security has an earnings penalty, which governs how much money you can make while at the same time receiving benefits. Exceed an annual cap (it's currently $14,160 a year) and you'll lose part or even all of your benefit. However, the penalty applies only to people between 62 and full retirement age.

If you decide to wait until 66, you should apply to Social Security three months before your birthday. You can apply online, by phone (1-800-772-1213) or by going to a local Social Security office (call ahead for an appointment).

You may also wish to have a look at the AARP Social Security benefits calculator, which can estimate your how much you'll receive if you start at different ages and help you decide the best time to claim.

You may also like: Maximize your Social Security benefits. >>

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.

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