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I'm on Social Security. What if I take a new job?

June 1, 2013: 6:30 AM ET

I'm 62 and just went on Social Security. If I take a high-paying job, what should I do? — Charlie Hadden, Clarkston, Mich.

Repay the money and withdraw your claim. Do it within a year of filing; you can reapply later, qualifying for higher benefits.

In case you can't or don't want to repay the money, tell Social Security about your job so your benefits can be adjusted. Before you reach the year of your full retirement age, the checks you're due are reduced $1 for every $2 you earn over a limit that's now $15,120; a hefty salary would cut your payments to zero. When you reach full retirement age, each month of unreturned checks will cut your permanent benefits about half a percentage point, says Robert Bruce, author of Social Security Inside Out.

Married? Definitely return the cash: Otherwise, dying before age 66 could cut your widow's survivors benefits up to 17.5%.

— Beth Braverman

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