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. Rosemary S.

    I keep hearing that congress has taken a lot out of Social Security and plans to take more. Is this true? I heard 2034 will be the year SS goes broke.

  2. Fred L.

    I appreciate the advice & tips you provide, but using Susie Orman is a bad choice. The woman is a fraud. Her credit cards were reviewed as being overpriced and laced with fees that took money from people who couldn’t afford it. Find someone else, like possibly Clark Howard.

  3. Reinaldo F.

    por favor pregunto si yo recibo 448 Dolares mensual y fuera del seguro 700 mas si puedo tener mas beneficios Gracias

  4. linda d.

    If you already draw ssi but have recently become disabled can you reapply and will that increase your monthly check? Asking for another person.

    • R.F.

      SSI is a needs based program that can pay benefits to disabled adults and children and to individuals age 65 or older with limited income and resources. Your SSI payments are based on your current income and resources. If you’re already receiving SSI benefits you do not need to re-apply. Thanks!

  5. Char

    I understand that we are not required to take Medicare part B. Is this true?

    • Logic A.

      True! Part B, C, and D, as well as Medicare supplemental policies, are all optional.

    • R.F.

      Thank you for your question, Char. Individuals already receiving Social Security benefits are automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B at age 65 or when they become eligible. However, because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you do have the option of turning it down. Generally, a beneficiary may refuse Medicare Part B, during his or her Initial Enrollment Period, if that beneficiary or the spouse, actively works and has coverage under a group health plan based on that employment, then he or she doesn’t need Medicare part B until the work activity ends or that health care coverage is dropped.
      In all situations, we always suggest that individuals speak to their personnel office, health benefits advisor, or health plan representative to see what’s best for them, and to prevent any penalties or delayed enrollment in the future.
      To learn more about the Medicare enrollment periods visit
      For specific questions about your case, call 1-800-772-1213, M-F between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and ask a representative to assist you, or you can contact your local office directly. We hope this helps!

  6. BeBe

    Why do they make it so confusing so we have to keep asking questions? Our minds get confused enough just by aging! HA!! So I took early SS at 62..had breast cancer and then my Mother had a stroke so I was her caregiver. After she passed I went back to work. In 2016 I made more money than I ever made during my 47 years of working! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I was to stop my SS payments. So now I am 66 yr old, no longer working and I lost my SS payments. So let this be a lesson..don’t take it matter how desperate you are!..If you make over the allowed amount ,stop the payments during that time. Since I took SS early, but I made more money then ever, am I still eligible to have my payments increase (according to the article above) when they do start paying me again? (BTW they do start paying me again after I pay back the years worth of over-payments!) Thanks in advance Snarky, I am sure you will have some hysterical comment to make! 🙂

  7. Carl M.

    Interestingly, for each COLA increase we have, we also have an increase in the amount deducted for Medicare Part B Premiums, which offsets the COLA increase. For example, in 2018 we had a 2.0% COLA increase, which increased my gross S.S. payment, but Medicare deductions from check went from $111.00 a month to $134.00 per month, which increased my deductions by $23.00 per month. In 2017, my total Medicare deductions were $1,332.00. In 2018, they will be $1,608.00. Do the math.

    • Logic A.

      Interestingly, you were unaware of the laws regarding hold harmless provision, and cola/Medicare premium increases. Perhaps you should endeavor yourself to do a little research, as these laws have been on the books for at least 20 years.

  8. Marie N.

    Thank you for explaining the ways of possibly increasing a retirement payment. As a retired Federal employee I volunteer at a VA medical clinic and try to keep myself informed of changes to benefits for myself, my family and all the Veterans I come into contact with. This article was clear and very informative.
    Hope to see more topics clarified.

    • R.F.

      Thanks for your feedback, Marie! We value your opinion of us and look forward to many more years of serving you in the future.

  9. Bernardo R.

    wOW!! We got a 2% increase in Social Security, and Medicare gets to increase your monthly payment and takes that 2% increase.

  10. Gwendolyn G.

    Does the new tax laws have any effect in my social security benefits?

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