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. Larry C.

    I have worked a part time job with NAPA delivering auto parts in Troy Missouri the past 12 years—-Every check has social security and medicare taken out but my about $750.00 each year. Should I get that back or should I get additional amount on my monthly social security check? Please reply

    • Snarky

      Read the story about the high 35 years for crying out loud.

  2. cynthia b.

    Hi if you can do this for people then why can’t your dept. make it right for my husband, my husband had worked 38 years as a electrictran he was told by his boss that he was at the age he could file for his ss and so he did and was still working ok now 1 year later he is on his way to work gets into a 3 car crash and is airlifted to KMC trauma center were there was 2 teams put together to see over him. he was 67 at the time and had plenty of CREDITS but was told know when we looked into SSRD (BULL CRAP) is there any one out there that is on the up &up because i have dealing with this for over 5 years I let it go and then get mad and call again one lie told to me after another and yes i am talking about both my local offices to the 1/800 number people will tell you any thing and there is nothing you can do. my husband’s wreck was JUNE,30,2011 thank god he had taken out extra LTD though his employer which only lasted intill 2014 then we were left screwed.
    And the part that really bothers me is they know SSA that they beat him out of his hard earned money and I would like to know why, why know one that has the power to help us has, and who do these people in these offices think they are, the money is not coming from there wallets so whats the problem I mean my husband honestly deserves to be receiving SSRD, I would be more then thankful if any one that reads this could help us. trying to resolve this for to many years there was know reason for this to be in question. also I would like this documented once again I am reaching for some one any one who might still care that has the power to care, We were done so wrong for so long even as I am writing this the date being JUNE 21,2018

    • barb

      My understanding is that you can’t collect both…..only the one with highest benefit.

    • Snarky

      Once you reach full retirement age, you no longer get disability. You wasted a lot of time typing up his life story.

    • John C.

      To Cynthia I have no Idea what state you live in but I am in Tampa florida You should have a person there that likes to run people over when ever they can.this person will work for ABC NEWS. We have one here and she is grate call ABC and see what happens

  3. Christine C.

    So, I worked 46 years when I retired at age 63 and a half, does it means I should be getting more money than what I was assessed at time of retirement?

    • BillyB

      only the highest 35 inflation-adjusted years count

  4. Victoria

    We received a 2.0 % increase from Cola and a 3.0% increase for our Insurance Cost. Everything else increased, Bread, Butter, Milk, Candy, Meds. I just don’t understand. I paid Medicare all my working life and I am still paying into Medicare from my SS check and I also have a part time job that takes out Medicare. Yet I pay a $20.00 co-pay for every Dr. Visit and more for Medical Procedures. Just venting to the truth.

    • Logic A.

      One cost you forgot to figure for, your health costs. Do you think that there was a zero percent gain in doctor bills, hospital bills, prescription drug costs? If these costs go up each year, wouldn’t it make sense that your premium should increase as well?

  5. Mary V.

    Can I get an independent divorced benefit at 62 and continue working without having to use my retirement benefit?

    • Christine c.

      At the time I retired at age 63 and a half I has worked 46 years,.. am I entitled to a higher payment since I exceeded the 35 year period?

      • barb

        SS takes your “HIGHEST” 35 year earning no matter how many years you worked.

      • Snarky


  6. Maria N.

    The social security office figures out the payment according to the last 35 years of earnings. If women stay home and take care of the family until they are grown and start to work at 36 years old how can they make up for the years lost. this is not fair to the women who take care of the family and can’t earn social security for 35 years.

    • Snarky

      Life’s not fair, write your congressman and ask him to sponsor legislation changing the law.

  7. Brian

    Can you provide me with information concerning a Restricted Application and File and Suspend in applying for social security benefits

    • Snarky

      Certainly, contact SS , not a public blog site.

  8. Marvin S.

    I’m took my benefits early. How do i apply for full retirement benefits?

    • BillyB

      You are out of luck!!

    • S

      You opted not to received full benefits when you chose early benefits. By around age 85, it evens out – you will have received the same amount of money, just gotten it in smaller amounts over a longer period.

    • R.F.

      Hi Marvin. If a person begins to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to their full retirement age, their benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits the person may qualify for. We hope this provides clarity, thanks!

  9. David S.

    I would like to see the “windfall” provision removed. OR, pay the amount removed by the “windfall” and tax it.

    • BillyB

      This will take a change in the law.

  10. Edwin L.

    Took my SS at 66 and still work and pay into the system.
    My question is will my benefits increase and when?

    • Char


    • S

      Your benefits will increase only if your earnings are higher than the years used in the original calculation of benefits. Ray Hernandez has explained that numerous times.

    • R.F.

      Hello Edwin, 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.

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