You can keep working after Social Security retirement or survivors benefits begin. If you are at full retirement age or older, there is no reduction of your Social Security benefits, regardless of how much you earn from work.
Before your full retirement age, earnings are subject to an “earnings test.” If your income exceeds a specified amount, Social Security will withhold all or a portion of your benefits. The income limits for 2015 are shown in the chart below. These numbers are indexed each year for inflation.
Benefits Withheld are Not Lost
If Social Security benefits are reduced or withheld because of money you earned after you started receiving benefits but before you reached your full retirement age, that money isn’t gone forever. When you reach full retirement age, Social Security will increase your monthly benefit to account for payments that were withheld due to those earlier earnings. Once you reach your full retirement age, the earnings test no longer applies to any earnings you receive.1
Let’s say that you are eligible for monthly Social Security benefits at age 62, and begin collecting those benefits. You continue to work, and then retire at age 63. During this year, you’ve earned enough so that half your benefits are withheld.
Once you reach full retirement age, Social Security recalculates your benefit, adding back a percentage of the withheld benefits into your monthly benefit amount. The restored benefits are paid back in equal increments over the rest of your life.