Will a part-time job affect my Social Security payments?June 11, 2012: 5:05 AM ET
I have retired after 31 years in a relatively good-paying field. I do not plan on taking Social Security for a number of years. If I take a low-paying, part-time job, will that affect my future Social Security payments?
-- J.D., Woodbridge, N.J.
It will likely increase your payments by at least a bit. Social security payments are calculated based on one's top 35 years of work. Because you've worked for 31 years, if you don't continue to work, four years will have zeros in them when it comes time for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to calculate your benefit, which is based in part on an inflation-adjusted average of your earnings. You can check your current estimated benefit (based on your personal work history) — and broadly factor in how part-time work could affect future payouts — by using the SSA's Retirement Estimator.
Another waypart-time work could lead to bigger monthly checks is by allowing you to delay tapping benefits, says Jonathan Peterson, author of Social Security for Dummies. While folks born between 1943 and 1954 can begin to receive benefits at age 62, those who wait until 70 will get payouts that are about 76% bigger, according to the non-profit National Academy of Social Insurance. So someone eligible for a $1,000 monthly benefit at full retirement age (currently 66) would receive payments of $750 if they tap benefits early (at 62) versus inflation-adjusted checks of $1,320 if they wait until 70.
Keep in mind, if prior to reaching full retirement age you begin receiving Social Security payments and take on part-time work simultaneously, your benefits may be reduced until you reach age 66. That money won't be permanently lost, however. Once you hit full retirement age, your benefits will be increased and adjusted to compensate for what was previously withheld.
-- Stephanie AuWerter
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