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. Debbie M.

    If I retire early (age 62) with reduced benefits, (example $2000 per month), once I reach full retirement age (65+) will by benefits go up to the top amount calculated based on my income now (example $3000 per month)?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Debbie. Thanks for your question. Your payment amount is based on when you decide to start your benefits, once you have reached your age of entitlement. If you choose to get benefits before full retirement age, they will be reduced. Your benefits are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before your full retirement age. We hope this helps.

  2. Richard S.

    I am 77 and receive Social Security Benefits. Of the 35 years I did have some 0 years when I worked for Texas
    Educuation Agency (They have their own plan). But did have enough quarters to retire with S.S. also, but not 35 years.
    I worked last year and S.S. was withheld. It is the end of March and I have received no letter about or any lump sum about last year’s effect on my S.S. benefit. Can you comment. Thanks

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Richard, thank you for using our blog to ask your question. Each year we review your work record. 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. However, our automatic recalculation of your benefit may not occur until later in the calendar year. If you are due an increase, we will be sure to send you a letter and pay that retroactive to January of the year after you earned the money. Please check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page for more details.

  3. Samantha

  4. Cynthia G.

    I just applied for SS benefit at age 70. I am continuing to work and my income in last 8 years is higher than earlier earnings.
    I thought if I continue to work after age 70
    and my earnings increase that my highest 35 years calculation could be adjusted annually still after age 70 to determine benefit. The local social security office told me that they stop recalulating after age 70 even if annual income goes up. I will still be paying social security taxes on my annual income so this does not make sense to me.
    My question is : Does the annual recalculation of benefit take into account increase in self employment earnings after age 70. I didn’t see online anywhere where it said the calculation stops. I thought it was highest 35 of lifetime earnings so that if you continue to work say even to 75 those earnings are added to the list for calculations. The local office insists that they never recalculate benefits based on additional income after age 70? Thank you for any clarification that can be offered.

  5. Olga E.

    My birthday is 1/16/1958. I was married for 19 years, divorced now for 10 years. I spoke with a SS rep on 2/19/2020 who informed me that I will become eligible for half of my ex-husbands SS benefits when he reaches his 62nd birthday which will be on 6/1/2022, he was born in 1960. His income dwarfs mine as he climbed the ladder to VP status with Lowe’s Company while I stayed at home to raise our children. Half of his benefits minus my benefit amount would be enormously larger than my current estimated payments which right now would be around $716.00 a month. My question is, is there an option for me to receive my $700ish a month SS payment starting now until June 2022, then request my payments be adjusted to include the payment to equal half of his SS benefits? Or is there only one time I can apply for SS benefits which in my case would obviously be beneficial for me to wait until June 2022 to receive half of his SS payments?

  6. John N.

    How much income can I make after reaching full retiring? What are the tax ramifications if I’m married and we both have taxable incomes

    • Ann C.

      Hi, John. Thanks for your questions. If you work and are full retirement age or older, the amount you make at work will not affect your Social Security benefits, no matter how much you earn. See our Benefits Planner: Getting Benefits While Working for more information. For tax questions, you will need to contact the IRS. Their toll-free number is 1-800-829-1040 or you can visit their website at We hope this helps.

  7. DENNIS P.

    I dont think its Fair that after 75 to keep paying taxes on homes,it was not that way years ago only greed takes our extra money ,its not fair. It use to be at 70 taxes stoped,again its not fair to the many trying to get extra money to help there older living time left.

  8. willie b.

    i started my social secutity 2011 the office set my benefits 3 years missing employer didnt show i was told benefits would be adjusted when they got the earnings but it never changed three years of wages i didnt receive
    credit for. is this fair

  9. Max T.

    When your fund matures, and you continued to work do you get the full amount or is it reduced by taxing the benefit based on you continued income?

  10. Manuel R.

    I will be turning 66 full retirement age in june 2020 I started taking S.S. payments at age 62 my question is will my working income earning currently is limited at $17,600 when will my income become for the entire year 2020 or half the since i become 66 in june

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Manuel. The “year” is the calendar year that you turn full retirement age, not the 12 months leading up to your month of birth. If your full retirement age is 66 and you turn 66 on June 22, 2020, for example, you will attain your full retirement age in June 2020. In the year you reach your full retirement age, in this example, 2020, your benefits will be reduced $1 for every $3 you earn over an annual limit ($48,600) until the month you reach full retirement age. Once you reach full retirement age, you can keep working, and your Social Security benefit will not be reduced no matter how much you earn. We hope this helps.

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