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. Robert J.

    I have been collecting Social Security for 10 years-started at age 65.I have had a part time job for the past eight years I make about $3000/$4000 per year. Social Security is with-held. Why do I not get that back?

  2. Constance H.

    I disagree with my inability to collect benefits from my former husbands social security. I have spoken to agents in the past who have agreed to my entitlement and state my account will be reviewed. However, I have never received a return call. Former husband is Frank Roy DeMeuse *** – ** – *** and we were married from June 16, 1962 to December 16, 1982

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Constance. Social Security wants to be sure that every decision made about your claim is correct. If you do not agree with our decision, you have the right to file an appeal. You must make your request in writing or file an appeal online within 60 days from the date you received the letter explaining our decision. If you need help with your appeal, you can contact your local Social Security office. Thanks!

  3. Rick C.

    I am pretty impressed with the ease of knowledge availed in this article.

  4. Sherry C.

    If I retire early or take a decrease in salary after working for 50 years and wait for full retirement to start as will it effect my benefits

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Sherry. Thanks for your question. We calculate your average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If there were some years when you didn’t work, or had lower earnings, your benefit amount may be lower as a result. For details on how your retirement benefit is figured, check out our publication, Your Retirement Benefit: How It’s Figured. We hope this helps.

  5. Virginia C.

    I took SS at age 66. But continued to work until age 71. Am I eligible for a monthly increase since I earned a lot more in those 5 yrs.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Virginia. Thanks for your question. Each year we review the records for all working Social Security recipients. If your earnings for the prior year are higher than one of the years we used to compute your retirement benefit, we will recalculate your benefit amount. We pay the increase retroactive to January the year after you earned the money. Visit our Retirement Planner: Getting Benefits While Working for more information. If you have specific questions, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. Generally, you will have a shorter wait if you call later in the day. You can also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  6. Suzanne

    I just called the Social Security Administration and the agent told me that this web blog is not from their office and she said this is not their information, where if you work before your full benefit age, and if you earn over their limit, you do not earn more money once you start earning your full benefits.

  7. kay H.

    I retired at 62 then started working at 70 part time for next 3years. Can the social security increase?

  8. Frank R.

    FrankJames Rodgers Jr. Born November 6,1962 Social Security Number 296724145…,Driver’s License Number RP630038,,.Ohio..,Expire November6,2020…,Theres people receiving $5,000,10,000–$15,000,$20,000-$25,000-$30,000and morewhy can’t I have what “He who has “no” name instructs?Should “hHe” destroy you?It’s $250,822.00 Frank J. Rodgers jr. 296-724145HA $250,000.00 added to Quentina Vaughn Telephone Number @16-536-2639..,FrankTinyTot@Yahoo.comparentsareDEAD..,GlastermomnameI have not given up my rights or signed anything awakefrom sleeping atnight!

  9. Michael B.

    I turned age 68 in May, 2019. I have not applied for my social security retirement benefits yet. My plan was to wait until I turn age 70 to start receiving my benefits. My question is if I start receiving my retirement benefits now and continue to work will my monthly benefits increase if my future income exceeds the lowest of my previous 35 years of income?

  10. Lester

    I like to know how to increase my social security

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Lester. If you are working while receiving Social Security retirement 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 one of the years we used to compute your retirement benefit, we will recalculate your benefit amount. Generally, we will send a letter explaining any increase in your benefit amount. For more information, visit here. We hope this helps.

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