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Ask the Expert: Questions about working and Social Security benefits

  • I've started collecting Social Security at 70 and I'm still working. Can my monthly benefit be revised upward based on my continued work, or is it set in stone?
  • I'm 68 years old and collecting my Social Security benefit, but returned to working. Is my employer taking Social Security out of my paycheck? If so, can I opt out of this since any monies I contribute won't affect my benefit?

You can't opt out of paying Social Security taxes. They're taken out of your paycheck as long as you work. The good news is that they may boost the size of your benefit, even if you're over your full retirement age and already collecting Social Security.

Your benefit is based on a formula that crunches 35 years of earnings history. The formula counts years in which you had no earnings as zeros. If you only had 10 years of earned income, for example, the computation would include 25 years of zero dollars. If you have more than 35 years of earned income, it counts the 35 years of your highest earnings.

The calculation doesn't end when you reach your full retirement age. As long as you work, the Social Security Administration recomputes your benefit annually, always using the 35 years of highest earnings.

This annual re-computation can boost your benefit if this year's earnings replace an earlier year of lower earnings or zero earnings in your 35-year work history.

If you're entitled to receive a benefit increase based on the 2021 recomputation, it won't show up in your monthly check until December 2022; but it will be retroactive to January 2022.

The bottom line

Each worker's Social Security benefit is recalculated annually. Depending on your history, even a part-time retirement job may boost your benefit.

More information

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Include your name, address and phone numbers. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own consultants for your specific needs.

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