Can You Keep Working and Still Receive Benefits?
Yes. If you have already reached full retirement age, you can continue working and receive your full benefit. If you have not yet reached full retirement age and continue working, your benefits will be reduced temporarily. However, the Social Security Administration will credit your "account" when you reach full retirement age, leading to a higher benefit.
The Spousal Benefit
Eligible spouses can claim Social Security benefits even if they have never held a paying job. To qualify, the "nonworking" spouse must be 62 or older and the spouse with a "work record" must already be receiving retirement or disability benefits. It's worth noting that widowed spouses become eligible for 100% of their partner's full benefit unless they also had a job and the benefit they earned from their own income is higher. In certain situations, divorced spouses can also be eligible for spousal benefits.
Taxes and Social Security
Depending on your income, you might have to pay taxes on Social Security benefits. For example, as of 2020, couples with a combined income of $32,000 to $44,000 who file a joint tax return may have to pay tax on up to half of their benefits. A combined income over $44,000 could lead to 85% of a couple's Social Security benefits being taxed.
Social Security Funding Challenges
Social Security has collected more than it paid out for decades. As noted earlier, excess income went into the Social Security Trust Fund. According to AARP, this fund held $2.9 trillion by the end of 2019. However, due to the retiree population growing faster than the working population, as well as the fact that people are living longer, Social Security is starting to pay out more than it takes in. Without changes to the way Social Security is financed, the trust fund is projected to run out in 2035.
Of course, even then Social Security will still collect taxes and pay benefits. According to recent estimates, however, it will only be able to cover 79% of scheduled benefits. To avoid that scenario, Congress would have to take measures to strengthen Social Security's finances, as it did in 1983 when the program's reserves were nearly exhausted. Given the program's importance, and the fact that millions of older Americans have been paying into the system for decades, it is extremely unlikely Congress would fail to take the necessary steps to protect it.
Changes for 2021
The Social Security Administration announces its annual changes to the program every October. Here are some key changes that took effect on January 1st of this year, according to the Social Security Administration's fact sheet.
- Social Security recipients received a 1.3% increase for 2021. (Beneficiaries received a 1.6% increase in 2020.)
- The maximum earnings subject to Social Security tax increased from $137,700 a year to $142,800 a year
- The amount of money working Social Security recipients can earn before their benefits are reduced increased slightly
- Social Security disability benefits also increased slightly
- It now takes $1,470 to earn a single Social Security credit, a $60 increase from 2020
You can learn much more about Social Security, and access a wide range of helpful tools, at https://www.ssa.gov.