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Will Working Part Time Before Filing Reduce My Social Security Benefit Rate?


Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about whether having reduced income before filing will reduce retirement benefit rates, potential effects of pensions based on income not taxed by Social Security and benefits potentially available after remarriage. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

Have Social Security questions of your own you’d like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.

Will Working Part Time Before Filing Reduce My Social Security Benefit Rate?

Hi Larry, I just turned 62 and am not working right now. If I start working part time and make significantly less money than what I was making full time, will that affect the amount of my current Social Security retirement benefit calculation.

I don’t plan to take early Social Security but I heard that Social Security will recalculate your monthly retirement benefit payment if your earnings are reduced before you take it.

Is that correct? Thanks, Tony

Hi Tony, You can’t reduce your Social Security retirement benefit rate by working part time. Social Security retirement benefits are based on an average of a person’s highest 35 years of Social Security covered wage-indexed earnings.

Any years of earnings that aren’t among a person’s highest 35 earnings years are simply disregarded when calculating their benefit rate. So if you work part time, you won’t reduce your eventual benefit rate, but you probably won’t increase your rate like you may have if you had continued working full time.

may want to consider using my company’s software — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to ensure your household receives the highest lifetime benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry

Can Social Security Cut Out My Husband’s Benefits?

Hi Larry, My husband has worked in overseas oil fields for years. He rarely paid Social Security taxes because he worked for foreign companies. We invested and saved, knowing we wouldn’t have much Social Security.

Now that he is retired at 67, the Social Security Administration is asking us to provide our IRA and other savings information. They said they might cut out his retirement benefit altogether. Is this allowed? Thanks, Lisa

Hi Lisa, There is a Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) that can cause a person’s Social Security retirement benefit rate to be lowered if they also receive a pension based on their work and earnings that weren’t subject to Social Security taxes.

Payments received from defined contribution plans (e.g., 401(k), 403(b), or 457 plans) based on non-covered employment can be considered as a pension for WEP purposes if the plan is the employer’s primary retirement plan.

I can’t tell from the information in your question whether or not your husband’s benefits will be affected by the WEP, but even if the WEP reduces his benefit rate, it won’t be entirely wiped out. The WEP never reduces a person’s benefit rate to zero. Best, Larry

Can I Get My Benefits on My Current Husband’s Social Security Record After A Period Of Time?

Hi Larry, I was married for 30 years and my husband passed away in 2015. I remarried in 2021. Can I get a benefit based on my current husband’s Social Security amount after a period of time? Thanks, Nicole

Hi Nicole, You couldn’t get your husband’s full amount while he’s living, but you might be able to qualify for spousal benefits if your husband is currently drawing his benefits. I don’t have enough information to know if you’d qualify, though.

You’d basically need to be at least age 62 to potentially be eligible for spousal benefits, and you may not be able to qualify until you’ve been married for at least a year unless you were eligible for widow’s benefits at the time of your marriage.

Also, you couldn’t collect spousal benefits if you’re already collecting higher retirement benefits on your own record or widow’s benefits based on your late husband’s record. Best, Larry

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