Three Common Ways Your Social Security Payment Can Grow After Retirement

June 21, 2018 • By

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Last Updated: June 21, 2018

woman planting flowers You made the choice and now you are happily retired. You filed online for your Social Security benefits. They arrive each month in the correct amount exactly as expected. But, did you ever wonder if your Social Security check could increase?

Once you begin receiving benefits, there are three common ways benefit checks can increase: a cost of living adjustment (COLA); additional work; or an adjustment at full retirement age if you received reduced benefits and exceeded the earnings limit.

The COLA is the most commonly known increase for Social Security payments. We annually announce a COLA, and there’s usually an increase in the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit amount people receive each month. By law, federal benefit rates increase when the cost of living rises, as measured by the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI-W). More than 66 million Americans saw a 2.0 percent increase in their Social Security and SSI benefits in 2018. For more information on the 2018 COLA, visit our website.

Social Security uses your highest thirty-five years of earnings to figure your benefit amount when you sign up for benefits. If you work after you begin receiving benefits, your additional earnings may increase your payment. If you had fewer than 35 years of earnings when we figured your benefit, you will replace a zero earnings year with new earnings. If you had 35 years or more, we will check to see if your new year of earnings is higher than the lowest of the 35 years (after considering indexing). We check additional earnings each year you work while receiving Social Security. If an increase is due, we send a notice and pay a one-time check for the increase and your continuing payment will be higher.

Maybe you chose to receive reduced Social Security retirement benefits while continuing to work. You made the choice to take benefits early, but at a reduced rate. If you exceeded the allowable earnings limit and had some of your benefits withheld, we will adjust your benefit once you reach full retirement age. We will refigure your payment to credit you for any months you did not receive payments.  Your monthly benefit will increase based on the crediting months you receive. You can find additional information about working and your benefit by reading What You Need to Know When You Get Retirement or Survivors Benefits.

Retirement just got more interesting since you learned about potential increases to monthly payments. Social Security has been securing your today and tomorrow for more than 80 years with information and tools to help you achieve a successful retirement.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Eugene A.

    Where can I check to see what my income was for each of the past 35 years?

  2. Karen M.

    I would like to know why my Retirement social security payment comes on sporadic dates instead of a date every month. Why would it come every 3d Wednesday of the month instead of like the 15th of every month. This scews the month up like crazy since I depend on it to pay bills. I have been struggling with this since I retired. Nobody else I know receives their payments like that.

    • Snarky

      Request that it come on the first of the month.

    • S

      Since you still get a check every month, the funds are available to pay bills every month. Think of it as money arriving a week BEFORE you need it, not three weeks later.

    • R.F.

      Hello Karen. Spreading payments or “payment cycling” as we call it, was created in May 1997, to change the mass mailing of Social Security checks and payments to our beneficiaries –which used to take place on every 3rd day of the month-.
      When all Social Security beneficiaries were paid on the 3rd of each month, it made the days immediately following “check day” the busiest in SSA field offices and telephone service centers. Now, under “payment cycling” beneficiaries receive their payments on the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Wednesday of the month. Your payment date is established, based on the date of birth of the person on whose record you collect benefits.
      This change has significantly allow our representatives to attend to our daily demands, and try to provide our public with better service.
      We thank you for your feedback and appreciate your understanding!

    • Sue S.

      I noticed that immediately! Sometimes we have five weeks and other times its four weeks and it makes it very difficult when I have to wait five weeks! But it ends up the same even when its on the same date every month – four or five weeks.

  3. Gail G.

    I kept working and paying into SS – the more I worked the higher my Medicare premium rose. $130 to $200 – not right. I’ve worked hard, paid taxes on 85% of SS income for years, paid fed and state tax, real estate taxes; I barely use my Medicare – provider is terrible.

    • Snarky

      Change providers.

  4. James E.

    I applied for Medicare when I turned 65. I deferred SS until my full retirement age, which is 66. I am now 66 and want to begin receiving social security. How do I begin that process.

    • BillyB

      call 1-800-772-1213

    • S T.

      You can apply for benefits on the Social Security website.

    • R.F.

      Hello James. Our system is set up to take applications three months in advance. You can apply for your benefits online at any time now. Remember that benefits are paid the month after they are due. So, for instance, if you want your benefits to begin with the month of June, you will receive your first benefit payment in July. Please visit our Social Security Retirement Planner for more information. Thanks!

  5. Michael F.

    This article says, “Social Security uses your highest thirty-five years of earnings to figure your benefit.”
    I heard that this does not include overtime pay, just a plain 40 hour work week. Is that true?

    • BillyB

      All FICA earnings count, including OT

  6. RONALD O.

    My Social Security check come to my bank monthly.
    I have a new bank account that I want to have my check sent to instead of the current one.
    How shall I go about this?
    I originally filed at full maturity (67) and my yearly gross has averaged $80-90 K yet my payments are essentially the same as when I originally filed.
    I am 75 and still working but my check hasn’t increased except for a COLA.
    Is this within normal limits?
    Thank you for your response.

    • BillyB

      Set up a mySSA account and you can make the change online

    • R.F.

      Hello Ronald, you can use your personal my Social Security account to change your direct deposit information on your benefit record.
      Also, When you apply for retirement benefits, we base your benefit payment on your highest 35 years of earnings and your age when you start receiving benefits. Each year, we review the records for all working Social Security recipients to see if additional earnings may increase monthly benefits. If your earnings for the prior year are higher than any of the years that were used to compute your retirement benefit, then we recalculate your benefit amount. If an increase is due, a new monthly benefit amount is established on your record automatically.
      For specific questions on your situation, you can call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 and speak to one of our agents. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks!

  7. Melissa H.

    Hello everyone. My name is Melissa. I am 51 years old. I had a massive stroke back in May 1993. I started receiving SSI payments 2 years later. And ive also had 3 TIA and have multiple health conditions. Like high blood pressure, thyroid disease, emphysema, copd, high cholesterol, DDD, 3 pinched nerves in my back, scoliosis, authorities of the spine, 2 buldging discs, sciatic nerve disorder, nerve disorder, sway back, narrowing of the spine, anxiety and panic disorder, MVP, etc. Anyway, my question is for u. Can I qualify for SSDI along with receiving my SSI benefits? Thank u for listening. Some people have told me I could. And some have told me no I couldn’t. I’m really not sure myself. BC I haven’t work or can work with all my health issues. And my SSI is just not quite enough to cover my bills, medicine copays, and drs. Please let me know by email. ( thank u and GOD BLESS U All

    • David S.

      I understand you cannot draw both and for SSI you have to had worked your last 10 years under SS. But good question, I hope they get back to you.

      • Jean, r.

        When you filed for SSI, your eligibility for Social Security disability payments would have automatically been checked. Because you were under age 31 when you had your stroke, less work than 5 out of 10 years woukd have been required. By the way, people can receive both SSA and SSI disability payments if their SSA benefit amount is small and their income and resources are low.

    • Snarky

      They have to by law pay you your social security before they consider SSI because the regular social security might be too high for you to get SSI. Don’t post your private Email address. If you are on SSI you are entitled to MEDICAID and you do not have to pay for any necessary medication. Contact your welfare office.

    • R.F.

      Hello Melissa, we pay disability via two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance program, for people who have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough to be eligible, and the Supplemental Security Income program, which pays benefits based on financial need.
      When it comes to qualifying for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Income or SSDI program, individuals must have worked long enough–and recently enough–under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which you have to earn within the last 10 years before you become disabled.
      If you have specific questions about your situation, please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and ask one of our representatives to assist you. Thanks!

      • Sue S.

        Is it correct that SSI means that a person had not worked before becoming disabled, and SSDI means they did work before the disability?

        I retired at 62 because of my situation and was very disappointed with my benefits. I should have already have looked into it sooner but…

        I recently became a payee for someone 32 years old receiving disability that never worked and was shocked they get almost twice as much as I do. I think survivors benefits are included but they didn’t earn as much as I did. Anyway, thank you for your tme and all you do.

  8. Rita M.

    I would like information on how to increase withdrawal of fed and state taxes from our paychecks. Thank you!

  9. James D.

    I have worked ever since I started my Social Security monthly pay. I thought that my current salary would add up to me drawing more but nothing has changed. If my current earnings don’t help me, whom do they help?

    • Snarky

      Your brother-in-law, Bubba.

  10. Gerald E.

    I have worked 14 years after starting my Social Security. Do you automatically check this or do I have to request it?

    • barb

      They automatically checked it for my husband. He received a higher payment only the first 2 years after retirement since his future earnings were not more than his 35 highest year earnings.

    • Snarky


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