Substantial earnings


Q. I have been reading your responses regarding the windfall elimination provision and you continually say 30 years of “substantial” earnings under Social Security.  What are considered “substantial earnings”?

I am 60 years old, with 26 years of government service and more than 16 years in private industry. I have almost 30 years that I paid into Social Security between the two. However, the earlier years were at a much lesser salary that I now make. (My earnings were $10,000 a year in the earlier years.) Does that qualify for “substantial earnings” under Social Security? Or will I have to work longer to avoid the WEP?

A. Here’s the difference. In 2012, you’d receive four credits (one year’s worth) if you earned $4,520. For those earnings to be considered substantial, you’d have to earn $20,475. To see what are considered substantial earnings in prior years, go to


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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