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  • Writer's pictureJohn A. White

Will My Social Security Benefits Increase if I Continue to Work?

‍Retirement is a significant milestone in one's life, and many individuals wonder if their Social Security benefits can increase even after they start receiving payments. Fortunately, there are several common ways in which your Social Security payment can grow after retirement. This comprehensive guide will explore these avenues for potential growth and provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about your Social Security benefits.

Understanding the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)

One of the most well-known methods for increasing Social Security payments is through a cost of living adjustment (COLA). Annually, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announces a COLA, increasing the monthly benefit amount recipients receive. The COLA is based on the rising cost of living, as measured by the Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index (CPI-W). In 2018, more than 66 million Americans saw a 2.0 percent increase in their Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

You can visit the official SSA website to stay updated on the latest COLA announcements. The COLA ensures that your Social Security benefits keep pace with inflation, providing a higher monthly payment to support your retirement needs.

Additional Work and Earnings

Another way your Social Security payment can increase is through additional work and earnings. When you sign up for Social Security benefits, the SSA calculates your benefit amount based on your highest thirty-five years of earnings. However, if you continue working after receiving benefits, your additional earnings may increase your payment.

If you had fewer than 35 years of earnings when your benefit amount was calculated, any new earnings will replace a zero earnings year. On the other hand, if you had 35 years or more of earnings, the SSA will compare your new year of earnings with the lowest of the 35 years, considering indexing. If your new earnings year are higher, your benefit amount will be adjusted, resulting in a higher monthly payment.

It's important to note that the SSA checks for additional earnings each year you work while receiving Social Security benefits. If an increase is due, you will receive a notice and a one-time check for the rise, and your continuing payments will be higher.

Adjustments at Full Retirement Age

If you choose to receive reduced Social Security retirement benefits while continuing to work, you may be eligible for an adjustment once you reach full retirement age. When you claim benefits early, your monthly payments are reduced. However, if you exceed the allowable earnings limit and have some benefits withheld, the SSA will adjust your benefit amount once you reach full retirement age.

The SSA will refigure your payment to credit you for any months you did not receive payments due to the earnings limit. As a result, your monthly benefit will increase based on the number of crediting months you receive.

Maximizing Your Social Security Benefits

Now that you know the various ways your Social Security payment can increase, it's important to consider strategies to maximize your benefits. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your Social Security retirement income:

1. Delay Claiming Benefits

One effective strategy to increase your Social Security benefits is to delay claiming them. While you can start receiving benefits as early as 62, your monthly payments will be permanently reduced if you claim before your full retirement age. On the other hand, if you claim benefits beyond your full retirement age, your monthly payments will stay the same.

Each year you delay claiming benefits between your full retirement age and age 70, your benefit amount will increase by a certain percentage, known as the "delayed retirement credits." By waiting until age 70 to claim benefits, you can maximize your monthly payments and receive a higher overall benefit amount in the long run.

2. Coordinate with Your Spouse

If you are married, coordinating your claiming strategy with your spouse can be advantageous. Spousal benefits allow you to receive a portion of your spouse's Social Security benefit, even if you have never worked or have lower earnings. You can optimize your combined Social Security income by strategizing when both you and your spouse should claim benefits.

Consider factors such as the age difference between you and your spouse, your respective earnings records, and your financial goals when determining the best time for each of you to claim benefits. Consulting with a financial advisor or using online tools provided by the SSA can help you make informed decisions about your claiming strategy.

3. Minimize Taxes on Benefits

Understanding how Social Security benefits are taxed can help you minimize the impact on your overall retirement income. Some of your Social Security benefits may be subject to federal income tax depending on your income level. By managing your income sources and withdrawals from retirement accounts, you can reduce the taxes owed on your Social Security benefits.

Consulting with a tax professional or financial advisor can provide valuable insights into tax planning strategies that align with your financial situation. By optimizing your tax strategy, you can preserve more of your retirement income for your use.

4. Consider Part-Time Work

If you have retired but still want to work part-time, it's essential to understand the potential impact on your Social Security benefits. As mentioned, your earnings may be subject to an earnings test if you work while receiving Social Security benefits before your full retirement age. This test reduces your benefits if your income from work exceeds a set limit.

However, once you reach your full retirement age, the earnings test no longer applies, and you can work and earn as much as you want without any reduction in your Social Security benefits. You can supplement your retirement income without affecting your Social Security payments by considering part-time work after reaching full retirement age.

5. Review Your Earnings Record

It's crucial to regularly review your earnings record with the SSA to ensure its accuracy. Your earnings record is the basis for calculating your Social Security benefits, so any errors or omissions could result in lower payments. You can access your earnings record online through your My Social Security account on the SSA website.

If you notice any discrepancies in your earnings record, such as missing or incorrect earnings information, it's essential to contact the SSA to correct the record. By verifying the accuracy of your earnings record, you can ensure that you receive the correct benefit amount based on your work history.


Retirement brings about a range of financial considerations, and understanding how your Social Security benefits can increase if you continue to work is crucial for maximizing your retirement income. By familiarizing yourself with the cost of living adjustment, the impact of additional work and earnings, and the adjustments at full retirement age, you can make informed decisions about your Social Security benefits.

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