Social Security’s Monthly Income Limit for Retirement Benefits: Most Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

social security monthly income limit

If you file for Social Security retirement benefits before your full retirement age, there is a limit on the amount of income you can earn. This limit is almost always based on your annual earnings, but in certain circumstances, it could be your monthly earnings that are counted.   

 The monthly income limit was created because the Social Security Administration recognized that some people who retire mid-year have already earned more than their yearly earnings limit.  The SSA recognized that it wasn’t fair to make those individuals wait until the next year to file for benefits if they are truly retired, so there are some cases in which it’s your monthly earnings that are counted. 

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How the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision Affects Dually Entitled Spouses

Trying to plan for your retirement but can’t understand the complicated rules for calculating Social Security benefits when you have your own benefit and a spousal benefit?

You’re not alone! Most people find this really perplexing…

…and when you add in a spouse that’s affected by the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) to the mix, the rules become even more tangled. 

If you have a scenario where both spouses are subject to these rules, it can really seem like the convoluted rules are setting you up to fail!  In a case like this, it can mean that one spouse could be forced to have their Social Security benefit calculated with the dual penalties from both the WEP and GPO (at the same time!) 

This application of both of these rules is not necessarily a “double penalty,” but rather a separate type of penalty on each of the separate benefits. 

Don’t worry if it all seems hopelessly confusing. I’ll explain all of this below. 

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Calculating Spousal Benefits with Dual Entitlement

calculating dual entitlement with social security spousal benefits

Calculating the spousal benefit for a spouse who also has their own Social Security benefit is an important process to understand. Your own Social Security benefit and your spousal payment are NOT calculated the same when it comes to reductions for filing early or increases for filing later.

Knowing the correct way to calculate your spousal benefits in this situation isn’t something that a rare few need to worry about. According to the Congressional Research Service, there are 3.2 million individuals who are entitled to a social security benefit from their own work as well as a spousal benefit. 

This situation is referred to as “dual entitlement” to benefits. In this article, we’ll dive into calculating spousal benefits with dual entitlement so you’ll be able to accurately plan the amount of benefits you can expect to receive. 

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How The SSA Legally Steals $378 Million Of Your Benefits Through Rounding (Every Year!)

social security benefits rounding

Every month, the Social Security Administration keeps millions of dollars’ worth of benefit payments that have been rightfully earned by individuals with work histories that should entitle them to receive that money. 

For most of us, taking anything that doesn’t belong to you is considered theft. Theft is a crime, and there are a lot of people who are paying the price for committing such a crime right now.

Maybe their crime  was egregious as armed robbery. Perhaps they engaged in some less-physically violent form of theft, like embezzlement or even tax evasion (which is pretty ironic considering what I’m about to tell you). 

Either way, it’s all considered a crime of theft and such actions land normal folks like you and me in prison. 

But the Social Security Administration? It sure does seem as if they don’t follow the same rules that we do.

In fact, they engage in theft on a daily basis! Social Security steals so much that when you add it all up, they steal more than $378 million dollars every year.  

And if you receive Social Security benefits, or will in the future, this impacts you.

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The Right Way to Use a Social Security Break Even Calculator

how to use a social security break even calculator

Trying to decide the best age to file for Social Security Benefits? Using a Social Security break even calculator can give you some important data to help you make the right decision for you. 

A Social Security break even calculator can help you understand which filing age will net you the highest total payments from Social Security over your lifetime. 

At face value, using these calculations seems like a logical approach to making the filing decision. But it’s just one step in the process, as this is a complex situation with more data points to consider. Break even age is an important consideration, but that information alone cannot be the deciding factor when choosing the best filing age. 

It is, however, a great starting point, so in this article we’ll aim to make sure you walk away with an understanding of the following:

  • Who should use a Social Security break even calculator
  • The problem with the calculators available today that you need to bear in mind
  • How to access our one-of-a-kind Social Security Break Even Calculator (for FREE) 

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How the Hold Harmless Rule Really Works — and Who Is NOT Protected by It

Nearly every year, two things increase: your Social Security benefit, and your Medicare Part B premium. 

So what happens if your Medicare premiums increase by more than how much your Social Security benefit increases? And can you actually see a decline in your monthly Social Security benefits? 

Unfortunately, the answer is yes… if you’re not covered by the Medicare Hold Harmless provision. 

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Can Social Security Be Garnished?

Social Security Garnishment Notice

“We need to get an immediate payment or we’ll garnish your Social Security benefit!”

The voicemail left for my client couldn’t have been more clear. After his wife died, he was left with thousands of dollars in medical bills. He’d tried to sort it all out, but trying to process his wife’s death and a mountain of medical bills at the same time was overwhelming. He planned to get to it, but for now, he just needed a minute to grieve.

The bill collectors didn’t wait, and it didn’t take long for the nasty calls to come rolling in. His last straw was the voicemail with the threat of taking away his Social Security benefit. I still remember the frustration, fear and anger in his voice when he asked me, “Can Social Security be garnished by debt collectors?”

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Your Social Security Benefit Isn’t Always Based On 35 Years of Work History

Have you ever wondered how the Social Security Administration calculates your benefits? We have countless resources on this site that explain the various formulas, rules, and exceptions if you’re curious.

But we haven’t discussed one big exception to the main calculation for arriving at your Social Security income amount, and that is the fact that the Administration doesn’t always use all of your years of historical earnings to figure your benefit.

Instead, they only use the years designated as “computation years,” This refers to the number of earnings years used to calculate your Social Security benefit… and it’s why even if you’ve worked for at least 35 years, not all of those years may be included in the average. 

Using 35 Years of Work History Is a General Rule… But It’s Not Always Used to Figure Your Social Security Benefits

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Social Security’s “Never Beneficiaries”

social security never beneficiary

There have been some pretty scary headlines in the news lately about certain people who will never receive a Social Security benefit… even if they paid Social Security taxes throughout their working lives. 

On the face of it, this sounds crazy! I can certainly understand why this would cause concern, especially if you think you might be one of those people.

You pay Social Security taxes while you’re working in exchange for the implied promise of receiving a benefit when you retire. No one wants to be the one who pays into the system but doesn’t receive any income from it when it’s their turn to receive income from the program.

But according to the Social Security Administration, there are more than 1.6 million people who pay into Social Security, but never receive a benefit in return. This represents 3% of the population between the ages of 60 and 89.

What’s going on here?

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The Right Age to Collect Social Security: 10 Factors You Should Consider

the right age to file for social security

It’s one of the most popular questions asked about claiming benefits for your retirement: What’s the right age to collect Social Security? Should you file early — or late?

This is not an easy decision to make, or one to take lightly.  No matter what your financial situation, you’ve likely wondered about the best strategy for you.

So today, take a look at the 10 factors you need to consider when you’re thinking about filing for your benefits.

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