Don't Be Afraid To Work
By Gary Silverman, CFP®
It’s Sunday. The day after the Hotter’n Hell Hundred bike ride here in Wichita Falls, Texas (still the largest single-day 100-mile bicycle ride in the nation). I don’t ride a bike. I don’t own a bike. But as you are reading this, I’m taking part. The day after the ride there are a couple off-road running events. I’m doing one of those. I’m probably face-down in the mud, covered with mosquitos, a rattle snake attached to my calf, with other runners stomping on me as they head to the finish line. Can’t believe I paid to do this. I never said I was smart.
Now for a completely different topic. I’ve heard from several people collecting Social Security retirement benefits who’d like to return to the workplace. Maybe they found retirement not as fun as they thought, or miss the comradery at work, or miss the money. One reason they are hesitant is because they heard if they did so, they’d lose their Social Security.
First off, let me tell you I’m not a Social Security expert. But luckily, I don’t have to be. When you get done with my two cents, just go to SSA.gov where a well-designed website (at least by government standards) awaits with a lot of information on the subject.
This non-expert says you shouldn’t be afraid to work based on what it will do to your Social Security payments. First, if you are already past your full retirement age, no matter how many billions you make each week, there is no loss of Social Security payments.
If you are below that age, then yes, for every two dollars you earn above $19,560 (for 2022), one dollar is reduced from your Social Security benefit. For example, if you make $19,000, you keep all your Social Security check. If you earn $29,000, your Social Security check will go down by $787 per month.
You can see how if you make enough money in your new job, your monthly benefit could go to zero. But it’s never taking more than you are earning. If you need the money, working is going to be better than not working. If you want to go back to work for the comradery, or to contribute to society, or to just have something to do other than watching Netflix, then the money wasn’t your goal in the first place.
If you do decide to go back to work and are not yet at your full retirement age, then let the Social Security Administration know about it so your benefit can be adjusted (trust me, they will eventually notice). One nice thing: they take into account that you have both increased earnings and have given up some benefits. That will likely result in a higher benefit payout than you were going to get once you do reach full retirement age.