Q&A: The effects of working after taking Social Security

Dear Liz: I didn’t pay much into Social Security and started drawing it at age 62. As a result my check wasn’t very much. If I start working now, will it increase my monthly benefit over the years?

Answer: Yes, but the effect depends on a lot of factors.

Social Security determines your benefit using your 35 highest-earning years. If you go back to work and earn more than you made in one of those previous years, your benefits will be automatically adjusted.

If you haven’t reached your full retirement age, however, working can temporarily decrease your checks. Full retirement age is currently 66. If you’re younger than full retirement age, Social Security will deduct $1 from your benefits for each $2 you earn above $17,040 in 2018.

That money isn’t gone for good. It will be added back into your benefit once you reach full retirement age.

There’s another way to boost your checks once you reach full retirement age, and that’s to suspend your benefit. Suspending your checks allows your benefit to earn delayed retirement credits. That will increase your benefit by 8% each year between your full retirement age and age 70, when your benefit maxes out. If you can afford to forgo checks for a while, suspending your benefit probably will give you the biggest increase.