How Much Can You Earn While on Social Security?

There is no cap on how much you can earn while on Social Security — if you've reached full retirement age.
Updated
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Written by Tina Orem
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People younger than full retirement age (67 for many) who are receiving Social Security retirement benefits can earn up to a certain amount from work before the Social Security Administration reduces their benefits. The limit is $22,320 in 2024. There is no earnings cap after hitting full retirement age

Social Security Administration. Receiving Benefits While Working. Accessed Mar 21, 2024.
.

If this is the year you hit full retirement age, however, the rules are a little different. Also, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments have their own rules.

How much you can earn while on Social Security

Whether the Social Security Administration's rules around working while you’re receiving Social Security retirement benefits apply to you will depend on your age and how much you earn. Here are some key things to know.

If you’re younger than full retirement age during the whole year

Earnings cap: The limit is $22,320 in 2024.

What gets held back: 50% of anything you earn over the cap.

How it works: The Social Security Administration deducts $1 from your Social Security check for every $2 you earn above the cap. For example, $23,320 of earnings would generate a $500 reduction in a person’s Social Security retirement benefit for the year

Social Security Administration. How We Deduct Earnings From Benefits. Accessed Mar 21, 2024.
.

  • However, you can still get full Social Security checks if for the remainder of the year after you retire you earn less than $1,860 a month and don’t spend more than 45 hours a month on a small business (15 hours if it’s a “highly skilled occupation”)

    Social Security Administration. Special Earnings Limit Rule. Accessed Mar 21, 2024.
    .

  • After that first year, you’re subject to the annual limit until you hit full retirement age.

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If this is the year you will hit full retirement age

Earnings cap: In 2024 the income limit in the year a person reaches full retirement age is $59,520.

What gets held back: 33% of anything over the cap.

How it works: The Social Security Administration deducts $1 from your Social Security check for every $3 you earn in the months before your birthday above the income limit.

  • This special rule exists because sometimes people who retire in the middle of the year have already earned more than the limit.

  • However, you can still get full Social Security checks for the remainder of the year after you retire you earn less than $4,960 a month and don’t spend more than 45 hours a month on a small business (15 hours if it’s a “highly skilled occupation”).

The year after you hit full retirement age

After the year in which you hit full retirement age, there is no limit on what you can earn while collecting Social Security retirement benefits.

Things to remember about working while on Social Security

Here are three things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about working while receiving Social Security retirement benefits.

1. Know what your full retirement age is 

This is the age at which you are entitled to receive 100% of your Social Security retirement benefit. If you elect to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits before you reach full retirement age, the Social Security Administration can permanently reduce your monthly check by up to 30%.

Your full retirement age is also the age at which there’s no cap on what you can earn while receiving benefits.

The Social Security Administration determines your full retirement age based on when you were born. For many (but not all) people, full retirement age is 67

Social Security Administration. Starting Your Retirement Benefits Early. Accessed Mar 21, 2024.
.

Full retirement age for Social Security

Year you were born

Full retirement age

If you start receiving benefits at 62, your retirement benefit is reduced by...

1943 through 1954

66.

25%.

1955

66 and 2 months.

25.83%.

1956

66 and 4 months.

26.67%.

1957

66 and 6 months.

27.5%.

1958

66 and 8 months.

28.33%.

1959

66 and 10 months.

29.17%.

1960 and later

67.

30%.

2. Understand how the limits are enforced

If you earn too much, the Social Security Administration gets its payment by withholding your benefits.

  • The Social Security Administration withholds entire checks (no partial reductions) and refunds any overages the subsequent year. 

  • For example, if you retired early and your retirement benefit is normally $1,200 per month but you incurred a $500 penalty, the Social Security Administration may withhold your entire January 2024 payment of $1,200 to recoup the $500 from 2023. In January 2025, it would refund the extra $700 it took

    Social Security Administration. How Work Affects Your Benefits. Accessed Mar 21, 2024.
    .

3. You may get some back

Your benefit may increase later if you had earnings held back before you reach full retirement age.

  • If you retire early and the Social Security Administration withholds some of your benefits because you earned too much, it recalculates your benefit to reincorporate those withheld benefits when you hit full retirement age, meaning you could get a higher benefit later.

  • For spouses and survivors who receive benefits because they have children in their care who are minors or have disabilities, there is no increase in benefits at full retirement age if benefits were withheld because of work

    Social Security Administration. How Much Can I Earn and Still Get Benefits?. Accessed Mar 21, 2024.
    .

What counts as income?

The Social Security Administration considers these things as income when determining whether you exceeded the income limit.

  • Wages earned by working for someone else. 

  • Net earnings from self-employment. 

  • Contributions you make to a pension or retirement plan if the contribution is included in your gross wages.

These things don’t count as income when determining whether you exceeded the income limit:

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Account minimum 

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