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. Frank E.

    Your advice about my SSI is highly appreciated

    Thank you

  2. John C.

    If I retire at 65 instead 66 Will there be a big difference.presently I am a federal employee with about 34years I am a GS 11 STEP 3 I THINK.

  3. Maria A.

    Maria A Ancira.
    I am currently working at IRS.
    It just came in my mind that i can work with Social Securit Administration, but i do not see where can i apply for a job.
    I am fluent in Spanish; i know i could be a good asset for Social Security Administration offices. I also have my resume at


    • Snarky

      The IRS has a bad reputation for their illegal activity concerning conservative groups, maybe the SSA will not find you a suitable candidate. Stay where you are and keep flying under the radar. Just sayin’.

  4. Ginger S.

    If you are not able to work after you turn 62 so you apply for SS and start receiving it and then your spouse passes away without getting to SS age because you are older then him but his SS is way higher can you then start to collect his?

    • Snarky

      Maybe, ask a SS rep.

    • S

      If you apply for widow benefits on your husband’s record, you will get whichever benefit is higher, which is often the benefit based on the husband’s work history.

  5. John M.

    Cam I get a Print Copy of this information?

    • Snarky

      Yep, hit your ctrl and p keys.

  6. O'Baire

    What do you do if you can not pay the amounts some creditors want you to pay. Can they garnish your Social Security? We are trying to live on our Social Security so we can both write. It is the way of working for us that allows us to work hard for four hours then enjoy the rest of the day without high stress. I enjoyed my high stress job as did my husband, but we both worked for 42 years and we are worn out. Will we really be able to live or will our creditors tears us apart?

    • Snarky

      File bankruptcy!

    • NHS

      You are supposed to save for retirement while you are working. SS is a supplemental source of income.

  7. Herman S.

    I would like to know when will my social security benefits will go up ? my reason for asking this question is because this month I ,had a birthday and turned 70 years old . surely look forward to hearing back concerning this matter soon as possible

    • Snarky

      Happy BD 2 U, your SS is not going up until next January when everyone gets a COLA.

    • Ray F.

      Hello Herman. Generally, if you continue to work while receiving retirement benefits, your monthly benefit amount could increase. Each year, we review the records for all working Social Security recipients to see if additional earnings may increase monthly benefits.
      The other way your monthly benefit amount could increase is based on the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA), which is announced each year in October. We hope this information helps.

  8. Barbara S.

    Cannot save an accident took all my retirement money. My car carreeer even children.. I’ve spent years just trying to receive DME I needed to function. I get step programs try this need prier autherisation won’t pay denied till now I’m allergic to so many drugs poured into iv at hospitals and I’m certain if I’d been given the best I would have returned to work. Couldn’t live on SsI alone eat proper and I needed oxygen and a moerized chair because scar tissue and misfiring nerves.
    Big mess. I was treated like a crimminsl until I found an agency CIL called Abil.
    I was cohersed into taking retirement early and now I receive 1/3 of what I would have been given

    • Snarky

      Look hard, there might be some truths in what you’ve said.

  9. Wilfredo D.

    This is great for the Retirees thanks to you all

  10. Elaine F.

    Thank you for this information. Since I am struggling right now and still working at age 65, I think I will make an appt. with SS about early retirement.

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