Not affiliated with the US Social Security Administration

The Earnings Test

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

1801. The Earnings Test

1801.1 How is your amount of benefits generally determined?

Social Security benefits are meant to partly replace earnings you (or your family) lose because of retirement, disability, or death. Therefore, the amount of Social Security benefits you receive each year depends on whether you are fully or partially retired.

1801.2 What is the "earnings test"?

We use the "earnings test," also referred to as the retirement test, to:

  1. Measure the extent of your retirement;

  2. Determine the amount, if any, to be deducted from monthly benefits; and

  3. Measure the work activity of other individuals entitled to benefits on your record and the amount of benefits payable to them.

1801.3 What beneficiaries are not subject to the earnings test?

The earnings test does not apply to you if you are:

  1. Full retirement age (FRA) (see §723.5 for definition of Full Retirement Age);

  2. Entitled to benefits because of a disability; or

  3. Living outside the U.S. and your work is not covered by Social Security. In this case, the "foreign work test" applies as described in §1823.

Last Revised: Sep. 27, 2005



There are 2 Comments

at what age does my ssan payment not get penalised for working i heard it was 66 and then i heard 70

There are three stages regarding this issue :

  • If you are under full retirement age for the entire year, SSA deducts $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 you earn above the annual limit. For 2013, that limit is $15,120.
  • In the year you reach full retirement age, SSA deducts $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above a different limit, but we only count earnings before the month you reach your full retirement age. If you will reach full retirement age in 2013, the limit on your earnings for the months before full retirement age is $40,080. (If you were born in 1943-1954, your full retirement age is 66 years.)
  • Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, you can get your benefits with no limit on your earnings.


Not affiliated with the US Social Security Administration