How would my Social Security benefit payments be affected if I stay on my job after the age of 70? I’ve been working for 12 years as a teacher. My previous jobs were mostly clerical and very low-paying.

The Social Security Administration recalculates your benefit every year that you continue working, even if you’re also already collecting Social Security. Depending on your work history, that annual recalculation may boost the size of your monthly benefit check. In your case, that sounds likely.

Everyone’s Social Security benefit is determined by a complex actuarial formula that’s based on 35 years of his or her earnings history. (The formula adjusts your actual earnings to reflect the growth in average wages since the year you earned them. In other words, the earliest earnings in your work history get the biggest upward adjustment, while your most recent earnings may not need to be adjusted.)

The calculation always counts 35 years of earnings, regardless of how many years you actually worked. If you only worked for 20 years, for example, the calculation would include 15 years of zero dollars, resulting in a smaller benefit. And if you worked for more than 35 years, the calculation would count only your highest-earning 35 years.

In many cases, of course, the Social Security Administration’s annual benefit recalculation doesn’t change a person’s benefit at all. But if your current earnings can replace a year of zero earnings, or an earlier year of lower earnings in the recalculation, they will boost your monthly benefit check. Based on your history, it sounds as if that may happen, although the increase may only be a few dollars.

THE BOTTOM LINE Working after you reach full retirement age can sometimes increase the size of your monthly Social Security benefit.


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