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Does what my spouse makes affect the earnings limit for my benefits?

No. Even if you file taxes jointly, Social Security does not count both spouses’ incomes against one spouse’s earnings limit — it’s only interested in how much you make from work while receiving benefits.

In other words, if your income exceeds the cap on yearly earnings — which in 2019 is $17,640 for people who claim benefits before full retirement age — Social Security will withhold money from your retirement payments. (Full retirement age is 66 and is gradually rising to 67 over the next several years.) Regardless of how much your spouse earns, it will not affect how much is held back from your benefit.

Your spouse’s income only affects you if your spouse has taken Social Security early and you are collecting spousal benefits on his or her work record. In this case, your spouse’s earnings could trigger withholding from both his or her retirement payment and your spousal benefits.

Keep in mind

  • One more wrinkle: If you are receiving spousal benefits, are below full retirement age and are working, your own work income is subject to the earnings limit and could reduce your payment. 
  • Once you reach full retirement age, the earnings limit disappears. Social Security will not withhold any money from any type of benefit regardless of how much you earn from work.

Published October 10, 2018

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