Rules you should know: Social Security Earnings Test

One of the critical factors in determining when to file for social security benefits is the earnings test.

The earnings test only applies to filers who have NOT reached Full Retirement Age (FRA). Please read my article, The Basics: Full Retirement Age and Social Security.

What is the Earnings Test?

According to SSA.GOV, Social Security withholds benefits if your earnings exceed a certain level, called a retirement earnings test amount. Again, this only applies to filers who have not yet reached their Full Retirement Age.

If you are still working/earning income and filing to receive benefits in years before reaching your FRA. Your social benefits will be reduced. Social Security will deduct $1 from every $2 you earn above the annual limit. The limit for 2023 is $21,240 and $22,230 in 2024.

Your Earnings and your Benefits —How Much Will you Get?

According to, For people younger than full retirement age during the whole year

If your monthly Social
Security benefit is
And you earnYou’ll receive yearly
benefits of
$700$21,240 or less$8,400
$900$21,240 or less$10,800
$1,100$21,240 or less$13,200

Naturally, there is a more confusing and complex rule.

If you file for benefits early, but you will attain your Full Retirement Age (FRA) in the same year. In that case, the limit is substantially higher, and Social Security will deduct $1 from every $3 you earn above the annual limit. The higher limit for 2023 is $56,520 and $59,520 in 2024.

Will I Get These Benefits Back?

Yes! Suppose some of your benefits are withheld because of the earnings test rule. In that case, your monthly benefit will increase starting at your Full Retirement Age. For more information, see “How Work Affects your benefits.”

What are Considered Earnings?

The Social Security Administration bases the earnings test on Earned Income. According to SSA.GOV, Earned Income is Considered;

  • Salaries
  • Commissions
  • Bonuses
  • Severance Pay
  • Self Employment Income
    • Net Earnings when you receive it, not when you earn it

What is Not Included;

  • Dividends
  • Capital Gains
  • Interest Income
  • 401(k), 403(b) Distributions
  • IRA Distribution
  • Pension Benefits
  • Government Benefits
  • Annuity Income
  • Social Security Benefits


SSA.GOV publication 10069, How Work Affects Your Benefits

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