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. Anna G.

    I chose to start getting social security at 62 but still work. Iam 69 this year and I don’t believe I am getting any of the money that was kept back from my checks due to working and drawing early social security. I am past full retirement age…did I not do something right?

    • retiree

      your wages rhat you earn from your job has to be higher in 1 year than the 35highest yrs that ssa used to fiqure your benefit.If your wages ate higher they will recalculate it automacially. They check each year.

  2. pamela v.

    I have heard that after i reach 66 years old I can work full time and draw a check from Medicare each month without any penalties. How does that work? Also what about taxable income?

    • Ray F.

      Great question Pamela, if you were born January 2, 1943, through January 1, 1955, then your full retirement age for retirement insurance benefits is 66. 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. Your payments come from Social Security Administration, not Medicare.
      Also, some people have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if you have other substantial income (such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return) in addition to your benefits.
      See Withholding Income Tax From Your Social Security Benefits for information on this topic. Thanks!

  3. Patti

    I’m collecting social security full benefits. I’m at full retirement age but still have to continue to work, so therefore I’m still paying into social security. Will I see an increase in my benefits because I’m still paying into it?

    • Ray F.

      Hello Patti. As long as you continue to work and receive benefits, we will check your record every year to see whether the additional earnings will increase your monthly benefit. If there is an increase, we will send you a letter telling you of your new benefit amount.
      In addition, after you reach full retirement age, we will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for any months in which you did not receive a benefit because of your earnings. We will send you a letter telling you about any increase in your benefit amount. Thanks!

  4. Kellie M.

    I’m not clear on early retirement . I would like to know if I retire at 62 I will receive about $400 less a month than if I retired at 65 or 67 . I need to continue working in order to survive.
    Will I get the $400 more a month once I reach full retirement age or will I continue with the lower monthly benefit from here forward…

  5. Catherine P.

    Thank you for the information. I will be seeking a review and verification of my benefit.

  6. Rutledge S.

    I seriously do not comment on the internet about anything financial in my life…….also this is not my real name…..

  7. Nancy M.

    I moved and want to know how to change the bank where my SS check is deposited. I can’t find the information anywhere. Can you help.

  8. Maesha

    I have taken ill this year. I am on short term disability with my company. I have not been able to work for six months. I will be 62 in two weeks and have worked 32 years. Can I apply for SSD now and generally how long will I have to wait to receive benefits.? Do I also apply for social security at the same time?

    • Ray F.

      Hello Maesha. Social Security pays only for total disability. We pay disability benefits to people under their full retirement age who are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last one year or more or end in death. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability.
      If you think you are disabled under our rules, you can file for disability online.
      Also, you can apply for reduced retirement benefits at age 62. We can pay your retirement benefits while we consider your application for disability.
      See what you can do online, or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday for more information or to make an appointment. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later in the week.
      We hope this information helps!

  9. Frank J.

    I need my IRS transcripts for this last tax date.

    • NHS

      Then get them from the IRS!

  10. Frank J.

    I need a letter from the IRS that shows I did not have to pay taxes this last year, because I did not make enough money from my social security income, and I had no other income.

    • Ray F.

      Hello Frank. You will need to contact the IRS. Their toll-free number is 1-800-829-1040. We hope this helps!

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