Social security earnings


Q. I am a Civil Service Retirement System/Federal Employees Retirement System retiree that left the government after 30 years. I switched to FERS in 1987. At age 62, I had 21 years of substantial earnings under social security. I began receiving social security benefits at 65. By age 62, I had 7 years of substantial earnings in the private sector. Most of these years are maximum earnings. Will my social security benefits be increased? In total I now have 27 years of substantial earnings and will be 69 in October.

A. Your original social security benefit would have been reduced because you were receiving part of your annuity from CSRS and had fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under the social security program. That benefit would be increased both by annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) and earnings from wages or self-employment after you retired. COLAs are applied in January of each year. Increases based on wages and self-employment are effective in October of the year after the earnings occur and are retroactive to the beginning of that year.


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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

1 Comment

  1. Regarding Social Security increases from earnings they are payable in October of the following year retroactive to beginning of the year. How is that paid out, a 10 month increase attached to the October check, and then increased monthly checks going forward? Are you only notified of the calculated increase in October of the following year or sooner?

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