That changes annually, based on national wage trends. In 2021, people who reach full retirement age (FRA) — the age at which you qualify for 100 percent of the benefit calculated from your earnings record — can earn up to $50,520 without losing benefits. Above that amount, Social Security will deduct $1 for every $3 in income. But Social Security only factors in money you earned before you hit FRA; after that, you get your full monthly benefit payment, no matter how much you earn from work.
Here’s an example: You claimed Social Security benefits in 2019 and will attain full retirement age in July 2021. From January through June 2021, your work income totals $55,000. Social Security would deduct $1,493 from your benefits payable for January through June — one-third of the difference between $50,520 and $55,000. Any income from the second half of the year is not counted. You can collect your full benefit from July on, regardless of your earnings, because you are at full retirement age.
Keep in mind
- In the years before you reach FRA, your income is subject to more onerous withholding: $1 for every $2 in earnings above $18,960. For a quick check on how work income affects your retirement benefits, use Social Security’s Retirement Earnings Test Calculator.
- Working while collecting Social Security might lower your benefits before you hit full retirement age, but it might increase them in the long term. That’s because Social Security annually reviews your earnings record, and if that income ranks high in your career history, it will increase your benefits down the road.
Updated December 23, 2020
Find the answers to the most common Social Security questions such as when to claim, how to maximize your retirement benefits and more.