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Ask Bob: Will my Social Security Benefit Go Down if I Don't Work After Age 60?

A reader asks a question about how Social Security benefits will work if employment is stopped. Expert Mike Piper answers.

Question

I am 62 years old. I quit working at 60, before full retirement age (FRA) without 35 years of employment. Some years I didn't work. I've been divorced for over 20 years.

1-Will my [Social Security] FRA monthly benefit go down each year if I wait until FRA but don't work anymore?

2- Will my FRA benefit monthly amount stay the same if I wait until FRA, but don't work until then?

3-Is it higher if I take Social Security now?

Answer

Your Social Security benefit will not go down as a result of waiting, says Mike Piper, author of “Social Security Made Simple.” Your retirement benefit is based on a) the age at which you file and b) your 35 highest years of earnings (after adjusting for wage inflation). “Waiting does not reduce your earnings record,” he explains, “so it has no effect on that factor. And filing at a later age (up to age 70) results in a larger benefit than filing at an earlier age.”

A separate point is that the benefit estimate on your statement from the SSA (Social Security Administration) might go down. Piper explains, “The statements always assume that you will continue working, until the age at which you file, at an earnings level that is equal to the most recent year for which they have data.”

So, for example if 2019 is the most recent year for which they currently have data and you earned $60,000 in 2019, the statement assumes you'll continue earning $60,000 per year until you file for benefits. “Once they see that you have retired though,” he adds, “the benefit estimate will be updated to reflect zero earnings going forward, which will likely result in a decrease in the estimated amount.”

“But again, waiting to file will never cause a person's retirement benefit to go down,” Piper confims.

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Question

I am 62 years old. I quit working at 60, before full retirement age (FRA) without 35 years of employment. Some years I didn't work. I've been divorced for over 20 years.

1-Will my [Social Security] FRA monthly benefit go down each year if I wait until FRA but don't work anymore?

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