Do You Know Social Security Earnings Rules?

If you collect Social Security, any outside earnings may reduce your monthly benefits.

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If you've joined the millions of retired folks forced to seek extra income, make sure you're aware of the Social Security rules that can affect your benefits if you have outside income. Depending on your age, outside earnings can sharply reduce your current Social Security benefits. However, in a future adjustment, Social Security will later raise your benefits to restore part or perhaps all of what you lose, depending on how long you live.

Here's how it works, according to a Social Security spokeswoman. If you begin receiving Social Security benefits before what's called your "full retirement age" (that's 65 to 67 for most people) Social Security will deduct $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 in outside wage earnings above an annual threshold, which in 2009 is $14,160. In the year you reach the full retirement age, the agency deducts $1 for every $3 you earn but only for the months before the month of your birthday. The earnings threshold, just for those months, is $37,680 in 2009. Once you've reached full retirement age, there is no reduction in Social Security benefits for outside earnings. Also at that time, if you've had your benefits reduced because of outside income, Social Security will raise them beyond what they were when you first began receiving benefits.