How Special Payments After You Retire Affect Your Social Security Benefit

woman on dock getting into kayak After you retire from your job or self-employment, you may get payments for work you did before you started receiving Social Security benefits. We call those “special payments.” Usually, special payments will not affect your Social Security benefit, if they are for work done before you retired. These payments will be counted in the last month you worked, unless the services can be shown to have been rendered in a prior period.

You should consider this when evaluating your work activity. If you are younger than full retirement age and make more than the yearly earnings limit, your earnings may reduce the amount of your monthly benefit. In 2018, the earnings limit is $17,040 if you are younger than full retirement age for the entire calendar year. If you reach full retirement age in 2018, the earnings limit is $45,360 for the months before you reach full retirement age. Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, you can receive your full monthly benefit no matter how much money you earn.

If you were self-employed, any net income you receive after the first year you retire counts as a special payment if you performed the services before you began receiving Social Security benefits. “Services” are any regular work or other significant activity you do for your business.

You can find more information and examples of special payments by reading Special Payments After Retirement. If you want to learn more about the earnings limit, please read How Work Affects Your Benefits.

Got another question about Social Security? On our website, you can find answers to over 200 of  your most frequently asked questions, and much more. Social Security’s online services are here to put control at your fingertips. See what else you can do online at SocialSecurity.gov.

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79 thoughts on “How Special Payments After You Retire Affect Your Social Security Benefit

  1. I am retired and receive SS. I will not have full retirement for a couple of years. I am working part time and would like to know how much I can make before I am penalized

  2. Is an employer required to report Special Payments After Retirement. I had a payment in 2018 and retired in 2017.

  3. My question is regarding the special extra earnings for periods of active duty.
    Is the extra pay of $300.00 for active duty service from 1975 through 1967 or the special extra earning of $100.00 for service from 1998-2011 a monthly amount?
    Thank you for your help.

    • Hi, Roy. Since you are past your full retirement, your earnings will not affect your Social Security retirement benefits. If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you will need to report your income to your local Social Security office. If you have any other question, please call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), from Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. We hope this helps.

  4. I really don’t agree with my Social Security Wage Record it doesn’t reflect the earrings I should get for retirement. The one thing Social Security does do is give you a raise and take it back and say they overpaid you, why am I or others a victim of this oppression. It is very UNFAIR. To supplement my income I have to work to take care of my Household. My Health is not that great that I should still have to work it is unfair and even predjudiced and discremenatory.

    • Thank you for your question, Edward. Social Security has special rules that make it possible for people with disabilities receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive monthly payments. These are called work incentives.

      For SSDI beneficiaries, there is a Trial Work Period (TWP) and then an Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). The TWP allows you to test your ability to work for at least 9 months. During this period, you will receive your full disability benefit regardless of how much you earn as long as your work activity is reported and you continue to have a disabling impairment. In 2020, any month in which earnings exceed $910 is considered a month of the 9-month trial work period.

      Once you’ve completed your TWP, you get a 36-month safety net called the EPE. During the EPE, you get benefits for all months your earnings or work activities are below the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level as long as you continue to have a disabling impairment. Social Security will suspend cash benefits for months earnings are over SGA and start benefits again if earnings fall below the SGA level. In 2020, you are earning SGA if your earnings, after any allowable deductions, are more than $1,260 in a month.

      Check out Social Security’s Red Book for descriptions of the many work incentives.

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