Ask Larry

Earnings Test

Is The Amount That You're Allowed To Earn Gross Or Net?

If I opt to collect social security at age 65 and continue to work earning the $17K exempt amount - is the $17K a gross amount or net amount? I've been looking everywhere and can't find the answer.



The actual earnings test exempt amount in 2019 is $17,040, and that includes any combination of gross wages and/or net earnings from self employment (

Thursday, March 28, 2019 - 20:47

Are Survivor Benefits Increased At FRA If The Survivor Lost Benefits Due To The Earnings Test?

Hi Larry,
When you file early social security at 62 and work at the same time, you are subject to earning test. I understand the benefits forfeited are not truly lost as when a person reaches FRA, the agency will restore or adjust the lost income by increasing his or her monthly payment to make up the difference. May I ask whether this apply to someone claiming survivor benefits ??



Hi Letty,

Wednesday, March 27, 2019 - 07:22

Can I Stop My Widow's Payments?

I claimed my widow's benefit when I was 60 and receive about $1000. It is not enough to live on and I would like to return to my career now that the economy is better where I can earn close to $90K. Can I stop my widow's payments somehow and earn my own money? From what I see, it looks like I will be penalized (ie: taxed) so heavily that it wouldn't be worth it or fair compensation for the level of work I CAN do. Any suggestions? I am now 62.


Monday, March 18, 2019 - 17:32

Should I Delay Filing If I Plan To Receive A Large Payment For My Accumulated Vacation Pay?

Hi Larry. I was planning on leaving my job in December 2020 and claim widow benefits in January 2021 and then claim my own SS when I turn 70. However I will get a vacation buy out of about $17,000 in January 2021. Should I delay starting the widow benefits until 2/2021 or leave my job earlier so I get the vacation buyout in 2020? I am trying to figure out if the income in 2021 will affect the widow benefit through the earnings test. Thank you for any clarification.


Sunday, March 17, 2019 - 10:15

Should I Have Received Something By Now Telling Me When I'll Be Paid?

Hi Larry. I filed befre FRA and have been receiving reduced benefits based on earnings above the 2018 cap. I understand the 2.00/1.00 formula for exceeding the annual limit and was expecting to have some months suspended again for 2019 but still no confirmation from SS re when those payments will resume. Ihave called SS 4 times and ea answer is a little different. Last answer saidcomputer programs that generate these letters is just backed up? Shouldn't I have received something from Ss by now re what they will pay and when?
Thank you Elaine

Sunday, March 10, 2019 - 12:28

Is My Earned Income Calculated On A Monthly Basis For The Earnings Test?

Hi! I turned 62 in July of 2018 and became eligible to receive benefits in August. I continued to work, with less hours and staying under the $14,040 monthly limit. I made more than that in August, coincidentally when I received a form from Social Security to estimate what I would make for the rest of the year. I told them that I went over in August and would make a certain amount as the annual amount, which I calculated as my income limit for the remaining months. Obviously I goofed, because my entire December payment was withheld in January, 2019.

Thursday, March 7, 2019 - 09:22

Is Your Gross Wages For The Social Security Earnings Test The Amount Shown In Box 1 Of Your W-2 Form?

Larry, I'm trying to clarify the employment income to use for the SS earnings test and whether you can use Box 1 on your w-2 (which many times is reduced by 401(k) contributions). I read an article recently that stated Box 1 was the income you could use so wanted to see what your opinion was. Many articles I read online don't address this issue at all but I would think many people that want to keep working part-time and also make 401k contributions would want to know as it could change significantly how many hours they could work without limiting their SS payments.

Saturday, February 23, 2019 - 15:15

Will My Earnings In The First 3 Months Of 2018 Affect My Benefits If I Didn't Start Drawing Until November?

I started ss in nov of 2018. I earned 23000 in the first 3 months of 2018, but nothing after that. Will that affect my 2 months of ss in 2018 and is that gross or after deductions earnings that is used for the penalty? Thanks


Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 19:31
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