Earnings test (US)

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Under the United States social security system, workers who have reached 62 but have not yet reached the full social security retirement age are subject to a retirement earnings test, which effectively defers benefits for people whose earnings are above a given threshold.


The test only applies to people who are below the normal retirement age, which ranges from 65 to 67 years old, depending on the person's year of birth. For beneficiaries working before the calendar year in which they reach the Normal Retirement Age, current benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 in wages over the lower bracket amount. For beneficiaries working in the calendar year they reach the Normal Retirement Age, but before they have turned the Normal Retirement Age, current benefits are reduced by $1 for every $3 in wages for earnings over the upper limit bracket.[1] The earnings test does not apply if a person is at or beyond the normal retirement age, is under the normal retirement age but has disability payments, or is living outside of the United States and working in a job that is not covered by Social Security.[2]

The reduction of benefits does not represent a decrease in expected lifetime benefits; it in fact only defers those benefits to later years.[3] When a worker who was subject to the earnings test reaches the Normal Retirement Age, the earnings test no longer applies to him. In addition, monthly benefits are increased to replace those taken by the earnings test. As a result, on average the earnings test has little or no effect on the worker's total lifetime benefits.


The following table determines what bracket people under the Normal Retirement Age fall under spanning several years:

Year Lower amount ($) Upper amount ($)
2000 10,080 17,000
2001 10,680 25,000
2002 11,280 30,000
2003 11,520 30,720
2004 11,640 31,080
2005 12,000 31,800
2006 12,480 33,240
2007 12,960 34,440
2008 13,560 36,120
2009 14,160 37,680
2010 14,160 37,680
2011 14,160 37,680
2012 14,640 38,880
2013 15,120 40,080
2014 15,480 41,400
2015 15,720 41,880


  1. ^ "Retirement Earnings Test". Social Security Administration. July 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
  2. ^ "Social Security Handbook". Social Security Administration. September 27, 2005. Retrieved 2007-03-08.
  3. ^ SueKunkel. "Exempt Amounts Under the Earnings Test". www.ssa.gov.