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Does the earnings limit increase as you get closer to full retirement age?

Yes. There are two different limits under the retirement earnings test.

The lower limit is $18,960 in 2021 and it applies to everyone who is below the full retirement age (FRA), the age at which you are entitled to the full benefit Social Security calculates from your lifetime earnings. For these people, benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 in earnings over $18,960.

The upper limit, $50,250 in 2021, covers anyone who reaches full retirement age in that year and is only applied during the months prior to the month when the beneficiary attains FRA. For these people, benefits are reduced by $1 for every $3 in earnings over $50,250.

Keep in mind

  • Full retirement age is currently 66 and 2 months. It will rise incrementally over the next several years before settling at 67 for people born in 1960 or later. 
  • If you were subject to the earnings limit, Social Security bumps up your monthly benefit once you reach FRA so that over time you can recoup benefits that were withheld.

Updated May 24, 2021