Is it true that working past 70 won’t change my Social Security retirement benefits?

Today’s Social Security column discusses whether income after age 70 can raise benefit rates, taking retirement benefits before survivor benefits, and how the income test is applied if your income ends in the middle of the year. Larry Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University and founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc.

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Do you have questions about social security that you would like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.


Is it true that working past 70 won’t change my Social Security retirement benefits?

Hello Larry, I am 70 years old and started collecting my retirement benefits in January 2021. I believe I have 29 years of substantial income. I have a job opportunity that would result in substantial income for the year. I was told that any income after age 70 will not change my payment. Is it correct? Thank you, James

Hi James, Your Social Security retirement benefit rate can be recalculated at any age to include additional years of Social Security covered earnings, regardless of your age.

I am assuming from your question that your benefit rate is currently reduced due to the Exceptional Effects Elimination (WEP) clause. If you have another year of substantial earnings, your benefit rate may be recalculated to mitigate or eliminate the reduction caused by WEP.

In addition, your base benefit, or primary insurance amount (PIA), may be recalculated if you have a new year of earnings that is greater than one of your current 35 highest earnings years on which your rate of benefits is based.

You might want to consider using my company’s software – Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner – to make sure your household gets the highest benefits for life. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or nonprofit organizations may provide appropriate suggestions if constructed with extreme care.

By the way, our software is fully programmed to handle WEP calculations as well as Government Pension Offset (GPO). Best, Larry


If I file for my own benefits at age 62 and my spouse dies before I am FRA, can I wait until FRA applies for survivor benefits?

Hi Larry, I will be claiming my own retirement benefits at age 62. My husband is in poor health. If he dies before I am FRA, how long do I have to file for survivor benefits? Should I do it right away or can I wait to be FRA? What if there are several years between my husband’s death and my FRA? Thank you Claire

Hi Claire, If you are on your own social security retirement or disability benefits and your spouse dies before reaching full retirement age (FRA), then yes you would have the option of Wait until your FRA to apply for unreduced survivor benefits.

However, if your spouse begins to receive reduced pension benefits before their FRA, your maximum survivor benefit rate would be limited to the greater of a) 82.5% of your spouse’s Principal Amount of Insurance (PIA) or b ) his reduced benefit rate. And, in this case, it might be more beneficial for you to apply for survivor benefits at some point before reaching your FRA. Best, Larry


Am I wrong in my thinking?

Hi Larry, I was asked to repay over $10,000 to SSA in 30 days because I retired at the end of the school year at age 62 and started receiving benefits for the remaining six months. They are now saying that I shouldn’t have received payments because of the teacher’s salary I earned for the first half of the year.

My position is that the money I made in 2019 from teaching was pre-retirement money. I did not earn any money once my services started. Am I wrong in my thinking? I appealed their decision, but they were not very transparent about my position in this process. I received Form SSA-131 for my former employer to complete. No advice? Thank you, Aaron

Hi Aaron, It doesn’t seem like your thinking is wrong. It looks like you’re probably entitled to all the benefits you received based on the monthly earnings test, but Social Security doesn’t know that yet. The monthly earnings test would have allowed you to receive benefits for any month in 2019 in which you did not earn more than $1,470, assuming 2019 was the first year you claimed your benefits.

Here’s the problem, though. Social Security has no way of knowing how much you earned in any given month or months. All Social Security receives from employers is a copy of your W-2 form. So if you don’t file a monthly income statement with Social Security, and your calendar year income exceeds Social Security’s annual income limit, Social Security assumes you had no monthly income. during which your income was below the monthly limit.

Form SSA-131 is likely only necessary in your case if you received compensation from your employer in 2020 that exceeded the calendar year income test limit for that year. If Social Security requested the form, you must have it completed and submitted as part of your appeal. In most cases, all that is necessary to redress alleged overpayments like yours is to file a report with Social Security of your monthly earnings for the year in question.

For the benefit of other readers who retire mid-year and receive Social Security benefits based on the monthly earnings test, be sure to contact Social Security at the end of your first year of entitlement. benefits to declare your monthly income to social security. Best, Larry


Maria D. Ervin