Dear Retirement Adviser,
I typically make about $55,000 a year. I will turn 66 years old in September 2014 and will retire the following year. Can I get Social Security starting in January 2014 and avoid having my Social Security benefits reduced by September because I will have only made about $36,000 from my work during that period?
— Les Ismore
You have a couple of Social Security issues jumbled together. First, your benefits are reduced if you take Social Security prior to your full retirement age. You turn 66 in September 2014, when you attain full retirement age. If you were to begin receiving benefits in January 2014, your benefits would be permanently reduced because you started receiving them prior to full retirement age. You’ll receive 95.6 percent of your full retirement age benefit. I don’t understand why you don’t wait for September to start receiving benefits since you plan to continue working.
A separate concern would be the loss of Social Security benefits from earning “too much” income. In the year you reach full retirement age, the Social Security Administration deducts $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above an established limit. It only counts the earnings in the months before you reach your full retirement age. In 2013, the established income limit for the months before full retirement age is $40,080. The limit will likely be adjusted higher for 2014. By your estimate, you’ll make about $36,000 from January through August 2014. If true, you should be below the earnings level that would force the Social Security payment to be reduced.
Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, you can get benefits with no limit on your earnings. The earnings are subject to income taxes, of course.
You plan to continue working while getting benefits, so the Social Security Administration will automatically check your work record each year to see whether the additional earnings result in an change to your monthly benefit.
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