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. Carolyn L.

    My husband worked for the post office so I receive civil service benefits (he’s deceased) but he also paid 9 years into social security, his salary was much greater than mine after paying, I signed up late was not aware there was a penalty for this. I only draw 234.00
    A month now that I’m cut 187. 00 this is a real hardship on me nothing left for groceries, is there any help for me..Thank you Carolyn Likes

    • Ray F.

      Unfortunately, and because of security reasons we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot provide specific information at this time. One of our representatives should be able to assist you and provide better guidance. Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later in the week. Thanks.

  2. Bridget

    Why can I not receive my late husband’s benefits, as ruled by the ALJ for “mental illness”, i.e., nervous breakdown, due to the death of my husband, and my own SS retirement benefits? I finally was able to work very part time but I made very little. Now I am house bound and could use both benefits. I worked since I was 15 years of age until I became ill.

  3. Lillie P.

    I have been getting threating calls from this phone number 214-613-9115 saying they are from Social Security office.

    • Ray F.

      Hello Lillie. SSA employees occasionally contact citizens by telephone for customer-service purposes. An SSA employees may call you in limited situations, such as if you recently filed a claim or have other Social Security business that are pending.
      If a person has questions about any communication—email, letter, text or phone call—that claims to be from SSA, please contact your local Social Security office, or call Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to verify its legitimacy (TTY number at 1-800-325-0778). Thanks.

  4. cindy r.

    I plan on retiring on my 62th birthday this Nov 8th. I plan on working the rest of the year. Does the earning I will make in Dec count toward 17k+ or does the amount I worked prior to my bd count towards that 17k +

  5. Margaret M.

    I’m inquiring as to the recent SS Administration Announcement Affecting Benefits. It seems there is one word that I can use to increase my yearly benefit. How do I find out if I am entitled to the increase/

  6. Joan H.

    My step daughter Susan Coake is receiving SSD and is the owner of a medical business called Ergoizeit in California How is this possible?

  7. Edward p.

    Why does my sign in not recognize me. I am trying to buy a car and I need a print out of my benefit amount

    • Ray F.

      Hello Edward. If you are unable to create an account or encounter a problem with your my Social Security account, you may:
      •Call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. At the voice prompt, say “helpdesk”; or
      •Contact your local Social Security office. Thanks!

  8. Roderick P.

    I recently reported a vehicle that I purchased do I get money from my social security for that.

  9. Lorraine F.

    I am receiving social security. I also work for myself and pay into social security since i retired. Why hasn’t my benefits increased?

    • Ray F.

      Hello Lorraine. 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 any of the years that were used to compute your retirement benefit, we will recalculate your benefit amount. If an increase is due, a new monthly benefit amount is established on your record automatically.
      You may contact us and request a review of your records. You can also call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. You will generally have a shorter wait time if you call later in the week. Thanks!

  10. Linda B.

    At age 67 my husband retired mostly due to his health. At the time I had been on SSI for many health reasons since 2002. When we went to the office we was told what he would receive and that I no longer would get the SSI check but the check I would receive increased but my disability is not considered any longer. My main question is, if my husband dies or we divorce will my check change? Especially if he dies. We are having such a hard time making it. Due to illness and other major health issues we are barely to make it. As Iam sure so many others are in the same situation. I will wait for an answer.

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Linda. In the event that your husband dies, and if you already receive benefits as a spouse on your husband’s record, your benefit will automatically convert to survivors benefits after we receive the report of death.
      If a person already receives retirement benefits on his or her own record, they can only apply for benefits as a widow or widower if the retirement benefit they receive is less than the benefits they would receive as a survivor.
      We hope this information helps.

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