Working in Retirement: What You Need to Know

December 6, 2017 · Written By JFS Wealth Advisors

Are you planning on working during retirement? If so, you’re not alone. According to recent analysis of employment data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans ages 65 and older are working more than any time since the turn of the century, and today’s older workers are spending more time on the job than their peers did in previous years. By 2024, it’s expected that 36 percent of 65 to 69-year-olds will be active participants in the labor market. That’s up from just 22 percent in 1994.

While the trend continues to move upward, the decision to work in retirement is different for every individual, and it’s important to carefully consider all influencing factors. You might begin with these common questions:

Why work during retirement?

Obviously, if you work during retirement, you’ll be earning money and relying less on your retirement savings, leaving more to grow for the future. You may also have access to affordable health care, as more and more employers offer this important benefit to part-time employees. But there are also non-economic reasons for working during retirement.

Many retirees work for personal fulfillment—to stay mentally and physically active, to enjoy the social benefits of working, or to try their hand at something new. For some, the unstructured days of staying at home can be just plain boring. Retirees with a spouse still in the workforce may find it more enjoyable to continue working rather than spending time at home by themselves.

What about my Social Security retirement benefits?

Working may enable you to postpone claiming Social Security until a later date. In general, the later you begin receiving benefit payments, the greater your benefit will be. Whether delaying the start of Social Security benefits is the right decision for you depends on your personal circumstances.

One factor to consider is whether you want to continue working after you start receiving Social Security retirement benefits, because your earnings may affect the amount of your benefit payment. If you’ve reached full retirement age (66 to 67, depending on when you were born), you don’t need to worry about this—you can earn as much as you want without affecting your Social Security benefit. But if you haven’t yet reached full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 you earn over the annual earnings limit ($16,920 in 2017).

A higher earnings limit applies in the year you reach full retirement age. If you earn more than this higher limit ($44,880 in 2017), $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $3 you earn over that amount, until the month you reach full retirement age—then you’ll get your full benefit no matter how much you earn. Yet another special rule applies in your first year of Social Security retirement—you’ll get your full benefit for any month you earn less than one-twelfth of the annual earnings limit ($1,410 in 2017) and you don’t perform substantial services in self-employment.

Not all income reduces your Social Security benefit. In general, Social Security only takes into account wages you’ve earned as an employee, net earnings from self-employment, and other types of work-related income such as bonuses, commissions, and fees. Pensions, annuities, IRA payments, and investment income won’t reduce your benefit.

Even if some of your benefits are withheld prior to your full retirement age, you’ll generally receive a higher monthly benefit starting at your full retirement age, because the Social Security Administration (SSA) will recalculate your benefit and give you credit for amounts that were withheld. If you continue to work, any new earnings may also increase your monthly benefit. The SSA reviews your earnings record every year to see if you had additional earnings that would increase your benefit.

One last important point to consider: In general, your Social Security benefit won’t be subject to federal income tax if that’s the only income you receive during the year. But if you work during retirement (or you receive any other taxable income or tax-exempt interest), a portion of your benefit may become taxable. IRS Publication 915 has a worksheet that can help you determine whether any part of your Social Security benefit is subject to income tax.

How will working affect my pension?

Some employers have adopted “phased retirement” programs that allow you to ease into retirement by working fewer hours, while also allowing you to receive all or part of your pension benefit. However, other employers require that you fully retire before you can receive your pension. And some plans even require that your pension benefit be suspended if you retire and then return to work for the same employer, even part-time.

Working in retirement can provide many benefits—a sense of purpose, social interaction, and of course, a continued paycheck. But the decision to work in retirement can be complicated with much to consider. Along with the support and guidance of family and friends, your financial advisor can help explain your options and recommend what makes the best sense for your current needs and future objectives.

Source: Broadridge Investor Communications, Inc.