Can You Increase Your Social Security Checks When You Retire?

If you have had very low earnings for several years, is it possible to increase your Social Security payments if you have already started receiving them? This is what we are discussing this week.

Every Monday, we address one of your pressing personal finance questions by seeking advice from several financial experts. If you have a general question or money issue, or just want to talk about something PeFi-related, leave it in the comments or email me at

This week’s question from Martin:

I just read your article on Lifehacker – What You Need to Know About Retirement Money .

I’m 62 and went to social security early. I haven’t contributed to Social Security in many years, so there are a few years with zero contributions to the fund. As a result, my check is terribly low.

My question is – if I start work now and make contributions, will my monthly check increase? I mean by replacing some years [in which I had] 0 [contributions]. I am aware of withholding one dollar for every two dollars earned and tax problems if you exceed certain limits. I also know that if I postpone admission until the full retirement age, there will be more – these are not my questions.

I need to find a way to increase the amount per month and there doesn’t seem to be much information on that.

This is what individual experts usually say about a problem that affects each person differently: if you need personalized advice, you should see a financial planner.

Increase Social Security Payments

Lucky for you Martin, the short answer is yes, you can increase your payments. That’s why.

Your Social Security payments are based on your maximum earnings in 35 years. So if you are now earning more than one of those 35 years, even if you are already receiving benefits, you may receive a larger benefit.

“Whenever income comes in, [the Social Security Administration] automatically recalculates the benefit amount to see if last year’s income counts as one of the highest earning people in 35 years,” said James Mahani, vice president of strategic initiatives. at Prudential. Financial .

Mahani also notes that since you have had zero earnings for several years for several years, your gain is likely to be even greater than what many other people are seeing.

This is how it works, according to SSA :

If your last year of earnings is one of the highest, we will change your benefits and pay you the increase you owe. This is an automatic process and benefits are paid in December of the following year. For example, in December 2018, you must increase your 2017 income if that income increased your benefit. The increase will be retroactive until January 2018.

However, there are limitations, according to Rick Edelman, founder and CEO of Edelman Financial Services . Since you are under your full retirement age (which depends on your year of birth, which you can find here ), you can earn up to $ 17,040 without reducing your Social Security check. According to Edelman, your check will be reduced by $ 1 for every $ 2 earned over the limit.

“That shouldn’t put you off your job because your question was about how to increase your monthly income,” says Edelman. “Even if you make $ 15,000, that could exclude one of your zero years and should increase your [Social Security] benefits in the future.”

If you earn so much this year that your check disappears entirely, SSA will recount your check when you actually reach full retirement age. “If you do not inform Social Security that you have exceeded the earnings verification threshold and received a higher monthly benefit, your check will be reduced in the future as soon as Social Security learns of the overpayment,” says AARP .

And you have several other options to increase your check. When you reach FRA, “you can earn as much as you want without cutting your SS check,” says Edelman. You can also “suspend your FRA Social Security benefits and let him earn deferred retirement credits, thereby increasing the amount when you turn on Social Security in the future.”

You can also change your mind within twelve months if you started receiving benefits at age 62, which will allow “your benefits to continue to grow and increase in the future,” says Edelman. “However, you will have to return any benefits you have received so far.”

This way, you have many opportunities to get a larger Social Security check, even if you already started receiving benefits. You can find more information here .


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