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Social Security Substantial Earnings Table

According to the Social Security Administration, substantial earnings is defined as an amount equal or above the amounts shown in the table below. This only applies to potential elimination or reduction of Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) impact if you are receiving a pension from non-SS-covered work.

See this article about the Windfall Elimination Provision for more details.

Year Substantial Earnings (18.57%)
1937-1954 $900
1955-1958 $1,050
1959-1965 $1,200
1966-1967 $1,650
1968-1971 $1,950
1972 $2,250
1973 $2,700
1974 $3,300
1975 $3,525
1976 $3,825
1977 $4,125
1978 $4,425
1979 $4,725
1980 $5,100
1981 $5,550
1982 $6,075
1983 $6,675
1984 $7,050
1985 $7,425
1986 $7,825
1987 $8,175
1988 $8,400
1989 $8,925
1990 $9,525
1991 $9,900
1992 $10,350
1993 $10,725
1994 $11,250
1995 $11,325
1996 $11,625
1997 $12,150
1998 $12,675
1999 $13,425
2000 $14,175
2001 $14,925
2002 $15,750
2003 $16,125
2004 $16,275
2005 $16,725
2006 $17,475
2007 $18,150
2008 $18,975
2009-2011 $19,800
2012 $20,475
2013 $21,075
2014 $21,750
2015 $22,050
2016 $22,050
2017 $23,625
2018 $23,850
2019 $24,675
2020 $25,575
2021 $26,550
2022 $27,300
2023 $29,700
2024 $31,275


  1. Lori says:

    My husband shows he paid into SS 43 years. The problem is that SA shows his earning records like this. 1966-1980 ($4030) 1981-1990 ($102,478) 1991-2000 ($208,542) 2001-2005 ($104,978) then it proceeds on to single years 2006, ($20,800) 2007 ($6,800) 2008 ($10,400). Between 1981-2005, his income averages out per year to meet the substantial earnings. Also in 2006.  But since they do not show the actual year by year earnings, we have no idea if he did not meet the threshold of substantial earnings.  And we are also confused by the 1966-1980 years.  If SS is counting anywhere in 1966 to 1976, he could have made the substantial income, however in 77-80 the threshold is like $100 under it.  With SS only providing 10 year increments, how are we to know the exact number of years he truly has received substantial earnings?   

    1. jblankenship says:

      You should be able to see the full earnings record – there’s a link on the first page of your My Social Security account, in the Eligibility and Earnings section for that. This should show each year’s earnings.

      If you don’t find that, you can call SSA and request them to send you the earnings list.

  2. Harcourt says:

    On my social security statement, it shows the years I worked and “Earnings Taxed for Social Security” for each year. My question is –
    on years where I had an S corporation, the social security statement is only showing the “W-2” amount, and not the adjusted gross income (after the income from S corp was added in).

    When IRS determines the years as to whether or not I had substantial earnings, shouldn’t they take into account the adjusted gross income amount? I’m at 27 years of substantial earnings, but if they considered the adjusted gross income amount and not just W-2 amount, then I could reach 30 years substantial earnings.

    Am I missing something?

    Or do the “Earnings Taxed for Social Security” on my Social Security statement not necessarily equate to the total amount considered for substantial earnings? I hope I’m asking this correctly…


    1. jblankenship says:

      Only your earnings that are subject to Social Security taxation are considered toward the Substantial Earnings years of credit. So your S-Corp dividends and pass-through income would not be included in that calculation, since those earnings were not subject to SS tax. Likewise, savings interest, retirement plan withdrawals, capital gains, and rental income would not be included.

      1. Harcourt says:

        I understand now – thank you.

        I have another question – unrelated. I have 27 years of substantial earnings as mentioned above, but for the last 5 years I’ve been at a job (municipal) where no social security is taken out.

        I’m basically taking my latest Social Security statement at their word, and I plan on taking Social Security when I’m 62. So I assume I will get what it says on my statement (less 3 years windfall adjustment if they do that).

        I’m concerned that when I turn 65 and start to draw a pension from my municipal job retirement, my social security will be adjusted down.
        Is this a distinct possibility? I’m reading that only “earned” income will reduce the amount. So I’m thinking that I’m safe. Is this correct?

        Great blog, by the way.
        You seem to answer all the important questions that people can’t find straightforward answers to.

  3. Amie says:

    If I work 30 years in the public school system and will retire at 54 I wasn’t even aware that I could collect social security benefits. I do work a side job and plan to continue to do so after i retire. Nothing is taken out of this particular income check. So Am confused by substantial earnings, loophole, and all this other talk. Seemed that things have even changed here recently. Help

    1. jblankenship says:

      This provision has been around since 1983, nothing new about it, relatively speaking.

    2. Bill says:

      Amie, A Substantial Earning to SSA changes all the time. If you’re a teacher who continued to pay into SS you’ve nothing to sweat. If you didn’t pay into SS the google up that Substantial Earnings Chart to see how many years you did earn. IF you earned less than 20 years you get full Penalty Reduction. If, however, you get more than 20 years of SE then for every year over 20 ( up to the max of 30), your WEP is going to be reduced.

      1. jblankenship says:

        … or instead of googling the Substantial Earnings Chart she could just scroll up on this page.

      2. Alvin Flint says:

        Is Substainial earning the actual amount of income you made in a year or how much you paid into SS

        1. jblankenship says:

          The figure used to determine if a year’s earnings are “substantial” is the amount of your earnings in that particular year that is subject to Social Security taxation. If your SS-taxed earnings for that year are equal to or greater than that year’s Substantial Earnings figure, that year earns a Substantial Earnings Year of Credit.

  4. Jim says:

    I’m a retired police officer receiving a pension from a municipalities that did not take out Social Security. I currently have 26 years of substantial earnings in Social Security jobs.I plan on working four more years to complete 30 years of substantial earnings and then file for my Social Security. I will be 68 1/2 years old.I know I am no longer affected by the whip. My wife plans to stop working at her full retirement age. My wife plans to retire at her full retirement age. Half of my Social Security would be more than her benefit, Would she be affected by the GPO.

    1. jblankenship says:

      If she also has a pension from a government source, then GPO may apply to reduce her spousal benefit. If she doesn’t have such a pension, then GPO does not apply to her.

  5. Debbie says:

    SSA shows 2 years as zero earnings. I have checked with the local agency rep who states those two years (1985, 1986) were manually entered and a mistake could have been made. However, unless I can provide proof- W-2, tax return – it cannot be corrected. My then full time employer is advanced/deceased. There could be a possibility that he never paid, but unlikely. I would not have any records from 40 years ago. IRS has done a search supposedly, and came up with nothing. What options are there to sus out the accurate earnings to prove to the SSA?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Sounds like you’ve exhausted all of the options I would suggest. Unfortunately you’d need records to prove there were covered earnings, and it appears there are no records available.

    2. Bill says:

      Debbie, try checking to see if the Business filed a tax return too. Maybe they used HR Block or such. It can’t hurt.

  6. Steve Heap says:

    I get profits from an LLc reported on a K1 form, plus social security and an overseas pension. Which line on my tax return goes to the social security people as my earnings?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Any amount on line 1 (Wages, salaries, tips, etc) plus the amount subject to SE tax on Schedule SE is what is counted toward your earnings for Social Security purposes. K1 income (unless you pay SE tax on it), Social Security benefits and pensions are not counted as earnings for this purpose.

      1. Steve Heap says:

        Thanks. My K1 is counting but I hadn’t realized that, on the SE form, the income is first reduced to 92.35% in line 4a and it is that amount that ends up in line 6 that seems to be reported. I don’t have any other income from wages. That first reduction caught me out and as a result, I’m about $1000 short of the substantial earnings test.

  7. Hi, I worked 9 yrs for a municipal govt non-SSA covered employer. They put a small amount into a 457 for me and when I left their employment (over 20 yrs ago) I withdrew the small amount. I have worked 25 yrs in a SS covered position before and after that job. My question is this – I do not receive any ‘pension’ of any kind. I have contributed to a 401 and 457 with other SS covered employers, and will be facing a 20% tax withdrawal fee whenever I take money from that account. Am I exempt from any WEP deduction? I have begun my online retirement application and do not know how to answer the question regarding those nine years that are listed as zero for SS income, since I do not receive a pension. Thank you for your help!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Technically the 457 withdrawal should be considered your “pension” from the non-covered work. Even though it’s not the traditional pension that you think of, Social Security considers this to be a pension and will calculate a monthly equivalent to use for WEP calculations. You can see how this calculation is performed on POMS RS 00605.364 Determining Pension Applicability, Eligibility Date, and Monthly Amount. The calculation figures are in section C.5 of that POMS page.

  8. Gary F Poe says:

    when does SSA determine the Substantial Earnings amount for 2022? I need to know how much that will be to make sure i will have another year of substantial earnings in 2022 before i retire

    1. jblankenship says:

      It is confirmed as $27,300 for 2022.

      1. Tom says:


        Thanks very much for this information as I had the same question as Gary.
        I’ve been unable to locate the 2022 substantial earnings number on the Social Security website. Can you provide the resource?

  9. Mikiko says:

    Are ebay sales considered as wages in W2? How about
    the profit of selling gold to a pawn shop? When you say “wages and tips”, are we looking at the numbers of 1 (wages, tips, other comp.) in W2 form?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you report your sales on Ebay as self-employment earnings, then the net self-employment income would be included as “earnings” toward substantial earnings. The profit of selling gold would likely be considered a capital gain (unless counted toward self-employment income) – which would not be included as earnings.

  10. Bobby says:

    My wife works for a State university owned company that puts money into a 403b and she does not pay into social security. She does not have 40 credits in social security. She has been working there about 10 years. How will WEP affect her spousal benefits and survivor benefits?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If she doesn’t have 40 credits, as you seem to imply, she’ll only be eligible for benefits based on your record – that is, spousal or survivor benefits. These will not be impacted by WEP, but rather by GPO. The GPO reduction is 2/3 of the amount of the pension being received from the non-covered job. There is no way to reduce the impact of GPO by substantial earnings as there is with WEP. See this article – Government Pension Offset for Social Security – for more information.

  11. John L. says:

    If my income is $26,000 from a W-2 job and I’m receiving $1100 in Social Security payments, doesn’t that bring my substantial earnings above the threshold for this year…because I’m now in the space where social security income is taxable? Or do my social security payments not count?

    You’d think they could make this more straightforward than calling it something vague like “substantial earnings.” The SSA site as usual is uninformative.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Sorry, but Social Security benefit payments are not included as “earnings”, or earned income, which is the figure compared to the substantial earnings listing per year to determine if that year’s earnings are substantial.

      1. Miki says:

        How about bank promo cash credit, interest earnings, or stock sale profits? Are those considered as part of the substantial earnings?

        1. jblankenship says:

          Wages (generally as reported on a form W2) that were subject to Social Security taxation, and Net Earnings from Self Employment that is also subject to Social Security taxation are the two items that are counted as earnings for the year for the substantial earnings “year of credit” determination.

          1. Miki says:

            If an earned income is less than $600 without W2 issued from an employer, is the amount still included in the substantial earnings as long as reporting it to file a tax return?

  12. Holly Henderson says:

    Is the substantial earnings based on your gross or net income of each year? 1) Also, what if you are approx $100 shy one year in meeting the substantial income for that year? I have many years paying into SS (since 1986) but only 24 are substantial based on this chart. I will be working as a school nurse next year, now paying into teacher retirement. 2) Can I work outside of school (teach retirement) and continue to put into SS to get the additional 6yrs needed to reach 30yrs?Thank you

    1. jblankenship says:

      Substantial earnings is based on your taxable (by Social Security) earnings for the year. So if you have deferred income to a 403b or 401k, that income counts toward substantial earnings since it is taxed by Social Security.

      If you’re $100 shy of the substantial earnings for a year, you did not meet the minimum, period. It’s a pass/fail test, and if you don’t get to the minimum the year isn’t counted.

      Yes, any taxable earnings that you have are counted toward substantial earnings years, so outside work, as long as you report the earnings, will count.

  13. Taylor says:

    I only have 14 years of substantial earnings with social security, I taught once, for one year only in a public school in Massachusetts. After I left, I rolled over the money from the MTRS into a rollover IRA. I’m 59 and I’m only certified to teach in Massachusetts, I’m considering taking a job at a Massachusetts public school. I would like to retire within the next 4 to 8 years. My thought is that I won’t even be eligible to benefit from the MTRS as I won’t last 10 years teaching. How badly would the WEP affect me? Is there anything I can do to avoid or diminish the WEP penalty? Is it bad enough to take off the table the idea of teaching in MA public schools and do something else instead?

    1. jblankenship says:

      The WEP impact in the case of a small pension is limited to no more than 50% of the amount of the pension received. So there is a limitation to keep WEP impact at a smaller level in a situation like yours. Otherwise, the only way to reduce or eliminate WEP impact is to increase your substantial earnings years of credit to a total of more than 20 years.

      1. Tracy R Viser says:

        Do taxed medicare earnings count toward a person’s substantial earnings years? I have 21 years in a taxed social security earnings column on my SS records and 9 years in a taxed medicare column.

        1. jblankenship says:

          On your Social Security record, only those substantial earnings years in the “Social Security taxed earnings” column will be considered toward the WEP impact. Medicare taxation doesn’t count (unless those earnings are also Social Security taxed).

  14. Clara says:

    I have 13 years of substantial earnings, mostly from self-employment, in the US. If I move to France (there is a totalization agreement) but continue to pay social security on my self-employment income in the US – in addition to French taxes – will that ensure that any years I’m outside of the US (in France) will count towards the 30 I’m working towards?

    My assumption is that if I only pay taxes in France, and no social security in the US, then these years won’t quality. But if I pay in both places, then those years do qualify.

    Thank you.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your assumption is correct. If you’re not paying US Social Security tax on your earnings, they will not count toward the substantial earnings years of credit.

      Totalization is of little use for substantial earnings (if any). Totalization is primarily (perhaps strictly?) for achieving the 40 quarter minimum for eligibility to receive SS benefits.

  15. KBay says:

    I have approx. 20 substantial earnings years as an American citizen in the US, and also am receiving a pension for 10 years of police work, where I did not pay into SS. Before all that I paid for 12 years as a German citizen into the German SS. Will the years in Germany count towards substantial earnings?

    1. jblankenship says:


      The way totalization works is that if you’re not eligible for benefits in the US (for example) but you have work history in an country with a totalization agreement, such as Germany, then some of those years of earnings can be used to qualify you for benefits. This really only applies if you don’t have the minimum 40 quarters of earnings history (in the US example).

      The same totalization will not apply for substantial earnings – those earnings years of credit must be earned with US Social Security tax applied while earning.

  16. mike stanco says:

    1 have 18 years of susbstianal earnings once i get to 20 years does my does the wep start to lessen

    1. jblankenship says:

      When you’ve recorded 21 years of substantial earnings, the WEP will be reduced. For each subsequent year (21-30), the reduction will be lessened by 5%.

  17. Vicki Pruner says:

    will retire 12/31/2021 with 27 substantial earning years. I will receive one last paycheck in January 2022 which will include my final
    Earnings and a lump sum of unused vacation leave. This check will provide over $27k, enough to meet another substantial earning year. I plan to start my SS payments at the same time in mid-January. Will I get credit for my 28th substantial earning year? Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      If the check is dated for 2022 and it’s subject to Social Security taxes, then it should credit to 2022, giving you another substantial earnings year. You won’t see the effect until 2023, however. The recalculation only occurs at the beginning of a new year, by my understanding.

  18. Erick Bryant says:

    I have 25 years of substantial earnings per my annual earnings on the SSA website as well 40 work credits. For the last 7 years I’ve been working in a job that works toward a non-social security retirement benefit. I have 4 years left in that job until I’m eligible to draw my retirement benefit from there at age 60. If I work another SS paying job and meet the substantial earnings threshold for another 5 years will that eliminate the WEP penalty? Thank you!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, if you have a total of 30 years of substantial earnings on your record, then the WEP impact should be eliminated.

      1. Do I need 30 years of substantial earnings by the year I am 62, or is it 30 years by the time I retire?

        1. jblankenship says:

          No, you don’t have to have 30 by age 62. You can continue to earn substantial years of credit (YOC) as long as you’re earning. For example, if you only had 25 by the time you file but you’re continuing to work, each new year of substantial will be added to your record and your WEP impact adjusted. If you have 30 YOC as of the time you file for benefits, you’ve eliminated WEP before starting to receive your SS benefit.

  19. Vicki Patrick says:

    I am working this year just long enough to earn the WEP for 2021. I do put substantial amount of my salary in my 403b. Does this count toward WEP even though it is not taxed now, (rather when I withdraw in future)? For example, if I earn $27,000 but half of it is put in my 403b so only $13,500 is taxable this year, will I get credit toward WEP for the full $27,000?

    1. Troy Middleton says:

      Yes, your contribution counts towards your substantial earning to reduce your WEP… assuming the portion you put in your 403b is subject to social security tax along with the rest of your earnings. Your 403b is “income tax” deferred not “employment tax” deferred. By the way, one little know fact is if your 403b is a ROTH (i.e., you pay income tax on your contributions when contributed) then the withdrawal does not affect the taxability of your social security benefit during retirement. Withdrawal form a traditional 403b along with most other income will.

      1. Holly Henderson says:

        403B is pretaxed (meaning you pay taxes on the money when you take it out at retirement and not at time of getting paycheck). So wouldn’t a 403B be comparable to a traditional not a Roth?

        1. jblankenship says:

          A 403b plan can be either pre-taxed or after-tax (Roth). Not all plans offer the Roth-type of account. That’s what Troy was referring to in the second part of his comment.

  20. Pam says:

    I’ve looked through the questions and haven’t seen anyone with this question. Regardless if I am affected by WEP, my husband has less years than I do of substantial Social Security income. Can he get Social Security based on my record even though I don’t qualify because of WEP?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If your husband has a governmental pension based on income that was not taxed for Social Security, the spousal benefit (or survivor benefit) that he might receive based on your Social Security benefit will be impacted by the Government Pension Offset (GPO). There is no “substantial earnings” factor for GPO impact, which reduces the possible benefit by 2/3 of the amount of the pension received.

      So, the short answer is – probably not, if he’s receiving a governmental pension.

  21. Hiunu says:

    I worked 23 years in public schools in Texas, now with COVID, at the age of 50 I am working a “regular job” full time. I have always worked part time jobs during summers and holidays so I don’t have any years currently of substantial earnings but do have my 40 quarters already. I can’t imagine being able to work 20 yrs (retiring at 70). So I will now be paying social security but not being able to ever benefit from it. Is there know way to minimize the amount ss takes out since they will never be there for me?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you have 40 quarters of coverage, you will benefit from paying into Social Security. I think you misunderstand the WEP provision – it doesn’t eliminate your benefit, at the very most it might reduce the benefit to 50% of what you otherwise would be eligible for.

      To answer your question, no, there’s no way to “opt out” or minimize the amount of SS taxation. It’s the same for all W2 jobs that are covered by Social Security.

    2. 29holding says:

      In recent retirement planning I learned the vagaries of the WEP, and also that I have 29 yrs of Substantial Earnings and need 30 to avoid a Benefit penalty (“thanks, SSA”). I want to be a SMLLC in 2021, specifically a Courier Service to “make” my 30th year of work earnings. Accounting and tax-wise, what financial result(s) from my business will be used by the Government to determine if I have achieved the 2021 Substantial Earnings figure of $26,550 and therefore eliminate the penalty? I can’t seem to find this anywhere to know what I have to “hit.” Thanks!

      1. jblankenship says:

        Your net earnings from self-employment (NESE) is the figure that you’ll want to look for. Essentially, the figure that you will report on your income tax return as self-employment income must be over the substantial earnings figure in order to count. If it was me and I had the flexibility, I wouldn’t trim that number down to the absolute minimum, I’d round up considerably just to make sure that I had enough earnings to count the year.

      2. cathleen dodson says:

        Year Substantial
        1937-54 $ 900
        1955-58 $1,050
        1959-65 $1,200
        1966-67 $1,650
        1968-71 $1,950
        1972 $2,250
        1973 $2,700
        1974 $3,300
        1975 $3,525
        1976 $3,825
        1977 $4,125
        1978 $4,425
        1979 $4,725
        1980 $5,100
        1981 $5,550
        1982 $6,075
        1983 $6,675
        1984 $7,050
        1985 $7,425
        1986 $7,875
        1987 $8,175
        1988 $8,400
        1989 $8,925
        1990 $9,525
        1991 $9,900
        1992 $10,350
        1993 $10,725
        1994 $11,250
        1995 $11,325
        1996 $11,625
        1997 $12,150
        1998 $12,675
        1999 $13,425
        2000 $14,175
        2001 $14,925
        2002 $15,750
        2003 $16,125
        2004 $16,275
        2005 $16,725
        2006 $17,475
        2007 $18,150
        2008 $18,975
        2009 – 2011 $19,800
        2019 $20,475

        1. cathleen dodson says:

          In 2021, the amount of substantial earnings in covered employment or self-employment needed for a YOC is $26,550. For people with 20 or fewer YOCs who become eligible for benefits in 2021, the WEP reduces the first factor from 90% to 40%, resulting in a maximum reduction of $498 (90% of $996 minus 40% of $996).

        2. Debi says:

          If earned as a minor is it subject to substantial earnings? I worked and was a student from 13

          1. jblankenship says:

            Probably something to ask SSA about – I don’t know what the rule is regarding what years’ substantial earnings are counted. For AIME purposes, only earnings from age 22 and beyond are counted.

  22. Brigitte Fisher says:

    Thinking of switching to a teaching career where I would contribute to SS and TRS. Certain counties contribute to both. I contracted for years overseas and they did not take out SS until several years later. I currently only have 15 years substantial however I did not receive a pension. If I work as a teacher 5-10 years will I still be able to receive full SS benefits as well as TRS since I did not receive a pension for contracting overseas? And will my SS benefits be reduced?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you do not have a pension from the non-SS-covered employment, there is no WEP impact. There should be no reduction to your SS benefits.

  23. A. Scott says:

    I plan to retire sometime in 2021 and WEP will apply to me. If I’m paid in Jan 2021 for work done in Dec 2020, will those dollars count toward my substantial earnings in 2021?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If the pay shows up on your W2 for 2021 it will be counted toward substantial earnings for 2021. Otherwise, if it’s included on your 2020 W2, it will count toward 2020’s substantial earnings.

    2. cathleen dodson says:

      earnings do not have to be consecutively to count for years in

  24. James Tumelson says:

    I worked in the private sector for 16 years prior to entering the public sector with a social security replacement plan. While working in the private sector, I have calculated 14 years of substantial earnings per the WEP numbers. I have a part-time gig and continue to pay into Social Security each year. However, only some of these last few years did I earn above the substantial earnings threshold. When I look at the WEP form it states that “20 or less” years of substantial earnings will be at 40 percent. Does that mean that whatever the SS benefit is at my retirement age I will be eligible for just 40% of that amount? Along those same lines, is there a method of redistribute monies from SS if you are painfully aware that you will never meet the substantial earning threshold from part time jobs?

    1. jblankenship says:

      The 40% reference is to the first bend point, which is used to calculate your benefit. See the article Windfall Elimination Provision for Social Security for more details on how this works.

      And no, there is no way to redistribute SS benefits as you suggest.

  25. Ray says:

    It’s unfortunate that with the economy in the toilet and people unemployed because of COVID, that the SSA raised substantial earnings by $1000.00. Whomever sets these limits have the heads in a very dark place.

    1. jblankenship says:

      It’s programmed into the system. This figure is a percentage of the taxable wage base each year, and as the taxable wage base increases, so does the substantial earnings figure.

  26. Sharon says:

    If you have 15 years substantial work years w// SS, then go to work for a school district and continue past full retirement age, then become eligible for spousal SS benefits, can you take the spousal benefits while your own SS continues to increase to age 70, then continue working for a few more years and avoid WEP/GPO impact until you retire from the school district?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I can’t say for sure if it will work the way you propose – on the surface, it does seem like a workable solution, since GPO/WEP only apply when you’re receiving the pension from the non-covered source. I suppose you don’t have anything to lose by trying this, from my perspective.

    2. cathleen dodson says:

      Your work history! Your substantial earnings! Your years! Pretty sure you will get spousal benefits. You will choose which is higher in the end = Yours or spouse. Bet you will be hit with the WEP penalty on your pension because of the 15 years you quote above. Don’t think you have the time to get the 30 yrs of substantial earnings.

  27. Ray Drummonds says:

    I have over 21 years of substantial years, most after retirement, but have never received an adjustment. Should I have received one?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Probably. I suggest that you check with SSA to have them review your records in regard to substantial earnings and the WEP impact to you.

    2. cathleen dodson says:

      Most offices have problems figuring this out. You have to push this. Talking from experience.

  28. Doug says:

    My brother was injured in aug of 2019. In the previous 10 years he had 20 quarters. Not counting 2019. 2009-2018. Because the year was not over, can he go back to 2009 to get his 20 quarters. Also if the disability happened in 2019, but he applies for it in 2020, will this still hold true. I guess simply put, what is the starting point to accrue quarters. Does it include the year you are in, and is it from the time of the injury or the time of the claim.

    1. cathleen dodson says:

      Doug, your brother needs to call the social security office and make an appt to talk about both. SSI changes a lot of factors in your story to collect a check.

  29. Doug says:

    I am currently working as a fireman and will have a pension. I have 96 quarters, or 24 years of ssa contributions, but only 16 years of “substantial earnings”. It seems that social security benefits are figured on quarters except for wep. Am I correct that I will be calculated as less than 20 years, instead of the 24 years of quarters that I have.

    1. jblankenship says:

      You’re referring to two different measures.

      The first measure is eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits, which requires 40 quarters of earnings based on a Social Security-taxed job. From your description, you have this covered. Your pre-WEP benefit will be based on the 24 years of earnings in the Social Security-taxed job.

      The second is Substantial Earnings, which can be used to reduce or eliminate WEP impact. From your information you’ve provided, it sounds as if the Social Security-taxed earnings you’ve had were only counted as “substantial” in 16 of your 24 years. So at this point, your Substantial Earnings credits are too few to make a difference in the WEP impact on your Social Security retirement benefit. If you earn more Substantial Earnings years of credit, once you have more than 20 years of Substantial Earnings, your WEP impact will begin to be reduced.

      1. Joe says:

        I have 11 years vested in Railroad Retirement and 23 total qualifying years between Social Security and RR. I also have a pension that did not pay Social Security. I’m going to file next March at 66 and 2 months I haven’t been able to get an answer as to how much I will be receiving or from who . Are both subject to WEP, will I receive one check or two reduced ones.
        Not sure if I posted this in the right place.

        1. jblankenship says:

          The pension will likely impact your Social Security benefit, and I don’t know whether the RR benefit has such a provision. I can certainly understand your frustration about getting an answer, the interplay between RR and SS is confusing. Sorry that I can’t give you a more complete answer.

  30. I am confused. I worked for 12 years in public schools in Ohio 1982-1994. No SS taxes were taken out because schools were a public group exempted to pay into SS. (The pension money for those years was converted to an IRA in 1998.) I went to NC and worked for 24 years (94-2018) and receive a pension from these 24 years (SS and Medicare taxes were fully deducted. during these 24 years) Now I am working for the Hawaii Dept of Ed and continue to pay into SS. When I called SS about my estimates, one rep mentioned I only had 26 years of substantial earnings and might be subject to the Windfall Provision. (No one else ever mentioned this) Question: the pension I receive is for the 24 years I DID pay SS tax. The years I didn’t pay into SS are not part of my pension at all. Do I still have to meet the 30 YOC rule? It seems unfair for me to have my SS reduced when my SS is computed only for the 26 years I have worked in NC and HI where SS tax is paid. I am hoping that WEP does not apply since my pension was social security covered earnings. Am I safe from WEP or will I have to work 4 more years to meet the 30 year rule?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If I’m understanding you correctly, there was only the 12 years in Ohio where you were working at a job that was not subject to SS taxation. The pension from that job is what triggers WEP. Assuming that that amount (even though rolled over to an IRA) is relatively small, your WEP impact should not be much, especially given that you’ve earned 26 YOC. To eliminate WEP altogether you’d need to earn another 4 YOC.

      Your best action is to take this to SSA and work through exactly what the reduction will be, making sure that they’re only considering the pension from the Ohio years (because all of your other years were subject to SS taxation, therefore not causing WEP reduction).

      1. Vicki Patrick says:

        Thank you! What you are saying then is that the money Ohio gave me in 1998 for my pension that I rolled into an IRA DOES count as receiving a pension now. They gave me $77,000 (instead of getting a pension) in 1998 but is more now since I have added to it and it has grown. How do they figure the pension amount? Also is the chart on SS site listing maximum WEP penalties a true cap? I actually will have 27 YOC after 2020 and plan to work half the year 2021 and meet YOC so I will have 28 years in and the max they list is $96. Still, it seems crazy that I would be subject to WEP since my SS amount is built ONLY on my years paying in. But yes, I make an appt with SS to find out if I am subject to WEP and what the penalty is. Again, many thanks.

  31. Roger says:

    My wife worked in a school district that had the office staff and teaching assistants pay into SSA & TRS. She worked for 27 years full time, but never reached the substantial earnings barrier, because they don’t pay aides and secretaries much. So I’m understanding her SSA Benefits will be reduced the maximum of 50%. How bout her Spousal Benefits from my SSA? Will they also be reduced by 50% should she choose to receive mine since half of mine is larger than all of hers?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If all of her work was subject to Social Security taxes, WEP and GPO won’t have any effect on her. It’s only if her earnings were not subject to Social Security taxation when WEP or GPO would apply.

  32. Betsy says:

    Also, after my answer can you delete that post with my full name (Elizabeth)

    1. jblankenship says:

      Original question:

      I looked at my SS earning report, and there are ridiculously low figures listed as my income for almost all of the years: are these figures representing something other than my annual earned income?

      Your earnings report should indicate the earnings that you’ve had each year that were subject to Social Security taxation. If the figures are incorrect, you need to get ahold of SSA and work with them to correct your record. If there are many years, or if the years in question have been a long time ago, this might be pretty tough to prove. Having access to old income tax returns will be helpful, if you have them.

      If your earnings are self-employment, this could be the root of the problem. Often your net earnings from self employment are considerably less than what you actually received in revenues from your business.

  33. Lee says:

    I receive a survivor’s military pension, but I did not earn that pension, it was left to me by my husband. Does such a pension trigger WEP? (I have 22 years of substantial earnings but I am hoping of course that a pension like this is irrelevant to WEP)

    1. jblankenship says:

      No, WEP is only triggered by a pension based on YOUR work. In your case the pension is based on your late spouse’s work, so it will have no WEP (nor GPO) impact on your Social Security.

  34. Cathy says:

    Hi, with exactly 20 years of substantial earnings, how big a % will they take off as? Also does it matter the amount of your private pension is?

    1. jblankenship says:

      With 20 years of substantial earnings, you don’t have enough credits to start reducing the WEP impact.

      The amount of the WEP impact is dependent on your date of birth. If (for example) you are reaching age 60 this year, the maximum amount of the reduction is $480. Or, if your pension monthly payment is less than $960, then the maximum amount of reduction is half of your pension monthly payment amount.

  35. Michael Valerio says:

    I have been working as a vocational teacher for the past 26 years. Before that I work as a Machinist and supervisor for 13 years. I have also worked part time for the past 20 years. I have not always achieved 100% substantial earnings in those part time jobs only 7 years have I achieved over 100%. I achieved 62% or more for 10 years and of those ten I achieved 74% or better for 7 years. When I added all the potential substantial earnings since I started working in 1980 ($571,725.00) and total all my actual earnings for jobs the I paid into SS ($707182.00) it comes out
    to 124%. My question is do I get credit for years that I had less than 100% of substantial earnings?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Unfortunately no. Each year is analyzed separately and credited or not. If you did not reach the substantial earnings amount with SS-covered earnings (even by $1) then the year doesn’t count toward WEP elimination.

  36. Rocky says:

    I am 68. I have 22 years which meet the Substantial Earnings minimum requirement through self employment and SS deductions for other W2 jobs. I have several years as a substitute teacher not paying SS but into CA teachers pension (not vested). SS is requiring a WEP reduction. Back in ’80’s I worked 5 years for State of CA did not pay SS, and did not receive a pension, although I did received a small sum $500 from the retirement fund when I terminated. I have read that I can appeal to convert the 5 year period I worked as a state employee to gain 5 years Substantial Earnings. IS this true? How do I do about this?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I’ve never heard of such a provision to add Substantial Earnings credits. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, just that I’ve never heard of it. If it exists (which I doubt) then you’ll need to work with someone at SSA to get the information about the appeal/conversion. Sorry I can’t help any more than this.

  37. George Thomas says:

    I have 27 years of Substantial earnings and continue to work to try to get to 30 YOCs necessary to completely eliminate the WEP deduction on my SSA benefits. The published minimum Substantial Earnings for 2020 is $25575. Given the nationwide shutdowns due to the Coronavirus pandemic I will be unemployed for at least three months making that minimum a lot more problematic. Any thoughts on the federal level to reduce that minimum? It seems only fair that the SE established before the economic shutdown should be revised.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Not that I’m aware of. I wouldn’t count on any changes to the Substantial Earnings figure, I’ve never heard of a change to it after publishing.

  38. Brian Dangelmaier says:

    I am 59.5 and I have 31 years of substantial SS earnings. I also have 26 years of Government pension, thus far, with my current employer. I will likely not retire until 70, giving me 36 years for Gov’t pension. Will I be affected by WEP given my 30+ years of substantial earnings?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you have 31 substantial earnings years, you should have no WEP impact at all.

  39. Monica says:

    1. I will be subject to WEP. I messed up and didn’t know that I should strive for minimum substantial earnings when I left the public pension job. Can I still contribute to SS and accrue substantial earning credits past age of 62 if I don’t collect social security yet?

    2. Does Interest earned count toward substantial earning?

    Thank you.

    1. jblankenship says:

      1. Yes, any earnings in any year, regardless of your age, will be applied to your SS earnings record, as well as to your substantial earnings years if the earnings are “substantial” for that particular year.
      2. No, only earned income – such as W2 earnings or net self-employment – are counted toward these figures. The income must be subjected to SS taxation to be included, and interest income, dividends, capital gains and pension income (among other things) are not taxed by SS.

      1. Monica says:

        Thank you for your reply.

        The explanation stated on the site seems contradictory and is confusing me. It indicates to me that ELY (eligibility year) used in the calculation is applied before and stays the same when delaying retirement.

        ‘The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces your Eligibility Year (ELY) benefit amount before it is reduced or increased due to early retirement, delayed retirement credits, cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), or other factors.’

        ‘If You Choose Delayed Retirement

        You decided to wait to age 70 to receive benefits so you could get Delayed Retirement Credits.

        Your eligibility year is still 2016.’ (the year this example person turns 62)

        Because of you kindly replied, I may retain your services when I need real numbers crunched.

        1. Monica says:

          to add, the AMOUNT used for WEP reduction in the delayed retirement calculation stayed the same.

  40. reggie says:

    I retired from a city fire department and later worked for the federal government under FERS system for 27 years. Am I under WEP and how much penalty?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you paid Social Security tax on your earnings, then WEP does not apply. If you did not paid Social Security tax on your earnings (or some of your earnings) then WEP may apply. Without reviewing your earnings history and SS record I can’t say how much the WEP adjustment would be.

  41. KR says:

    I have 26 years of substantial earnings credit as of now (1990-1994, 2000-2020). For five years (1995-1999), I worked as a State Government employee and no Social Security taxes were withheld. However, because I did not meet the vesting period requirement I was not eligible for a pension and got back the employee contribution upon separation from service (which then went into a rollover IRA). So I will not receive a State Government pension. Is the WEP applicable in this situation, where there is no state government pension? Thank you in advance.

    1. jblankenship says:

      If there is no pension, then the WEP will not apply to your situation.

      1. KR says:

        Thank you. But how do I prove that I do not receive a state pension? In the annual social security statement, it shows 0 as SS income for those years, but shows between 65000 and 85000 for those years as medicare taxable income. Would that create an issue since the SS office person can see the divergence, and hence raise questions — or, assume that I get a pension? So my question about how do I prove that I do not get, and am not eligible to get, a state pension? Have you come across such a situation? (I assume there must be many, who worked for a few years but left before vesting.) Thanks in advance.

  42. Maria Arce says:

    I’m 62 years old and I am eligible for a monthly pension as a teacher for the government but I plan to quit my teaching job and get a full lump payment on my pension contributions. I’m not expecting a monthly pension check. I also qualify for social security benefits because teaching is my second career and before that I paid social security tax in the private sector. Can I receive social security benefits without the WEP deduction?

    1. jblankenship says:

      It all depends on how much your Social Security-covered earnings were throughout your career. If you have earned more than the amounts in the table above for 30 years, the WEP will not impact you. But if you don’t have 30 years where your earnings were greater than the amounts in the table, then there will be WEP impact. This is regardless of the fact that you’re planning to take a lump sum of your pension.

  43. Stephanie says:

    I am on social security disability i stop working as a LPN 1999 because I am legally blind Will my benefits be affected if i sighn up and get paid to be my Mom’s Direct caregiver in my home?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I’m sorry but I am not well-versed in the disability arena. Your best bet is to contact SSA for guidance.

  44. Pam Novitzky says:

    I am wondering when SS will announce the dollar amount for Substantial Earnings in 2020? My plan is to work long enough into 2020 to earn that amount and then I will have met my 30th year, and retire without any WEP impact. Do you know the date they will announce the amount needed in 2020?

    1. jblankenship says:

      The official publish date for these figures is typically in mid-November. Generally though, we may have the number by late October, as the cost of living adjustment information is due on or around the 15th of October. Stay tuned!

  45. margaretmccoy says:

    I am still working and age 73.5. Only have 5 years of substantial earnings in SS as I am an eductor and have taught for 48 years with no contributions to SS. My social security payment is $563 per month now (waited to receive until 70). I will retire with of 403b value of $3million. How much of an offset will I have on myy $563 SS payment? Also, I was hired before 1985 and it appears a statement in the WEP guidelines say they apply if you were hired after 1985. Am I therefore not subject to WEP if I was hired in 1970 and have been at the same institution for 48 years?

    1. jblankenship says:

      The maximum WEP impact is limited to 50% of your Social Security benefit (or 50% of your pension if that amount is less), when your unreduced benefit is less than the first bend point. In your case this means that the maximum WEP reduction would be approximately $282.

      The 1985 reference is in regard to eligibility for a Social Security benefit. You would not have become eligible for a Social Security retirement benefit until you reached age 62, which was long after 1985. There’s another 1985 reference which applies specifically to federal government pension recipients, but that wouldn’t apply to your case.

  46. Auntie says:

    I am 62 and planning to retire on my 63rd birthday in January 2020. I have 21 years of substantial SS earnings from 1979 to 2000. I will also have 19. 4 years as an educator. I will take my educator pension when I retire, but am hoping to delay taking my SS pension until I am 66 1/2. If I get a part time job and earn $24700/year (or whatever the substantial earnings will be in the next few years) will it help reduce the WEP impact?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes – each year that you earn more than the “substantial” amount will add another year to your credit years. If you earn 4 more credits between now and when you file, this will reduce the WEP impact by 50%. And you can continue to earn credits after you’ve filed, each year dropping the impact by 5%, until you have a total of 30 credits which eliminates WEP altogether.

  47. Ken says:

    Not sure the 45 hour/Substantial income rule is being applied to my situation correctly? I’ve been living in China for the last 5 years. I work as an on-line english teacher for a Chinese school. My SS agent in Manila says I can’t work over 45 hours per month or I’ll lose all my benefits for any month I do. But my earnings will be just under $11,500 for the year if limited to 45 hours…but does the monthly exempt amount as mentioned in the link below apply to me? If so, what is the amount?
    Thank you for your input! :)

    1. jblankenship says:

      First of all, the Substantial Earnings table (in the article here) is different from Substantial Services in Self Employment that you’re referring to. The Substantial Earnings table relates to the Windfall Elimnation Provision (WEP), which doesn’t seem to apply in your case.

      The rules around Substantial Services in Self Employment are explicit: regardless of your earnings level, if you work 45 hours or more in a month then you forfeit the Social Security retirement benefit which you are receiving. This applies when you are under FRA (Full Retirement Age).

      One possible exception to this rule is if your earnings can be readily determined, your earnings are solely dependent on your personal services, and there is no significant investment in the “business”. This could possibly apply in your case – you should talk this over with Social Security representatives to determine if it can apply to you.

  48. I was drafted into the Army in 1971, before volunteer Army pay was implemented (they started us at $67/month). Are those years in any way adjusted? (hey I got off the plane over there and worked 66 straight days, but I may not have been in “substantial employment?” Gosh darn).

    1. jblankenship says:

      I’m sorry but I don’t know the answer to that. I have not seen anything about adjusting pay for servicemembers – but that doesn’t mean there’s not a provision for it. I’d check with SSA to find out for sure, if I were you.

  49. Living overseas says:

    So, I have 21 years of substantial earnings and have lived overseas for 7. I still have a decade before retirement. I have a few questions.
    1) How is the WEP clawback established. I only anticipate 250 per month from foreign retirement. If I end up with another few years of substantial earnings and get to the 75% level, how is this calculated. Assume full SS payment would be 2,000 per month. Will I lose 500 per month to collect the 250 (i.e., get paid 1500 since that is 75% of 2000)? That doesn’t seem fair.
    2) Does self employment earnings claimed in the US and paying the Self Employed Taxes (which is basically SS & Medicare) count towards my substantial earnings? Or does it have to be W2 income?
    3) I was in college in the late 1990s and received enough money to hit the substantial earnings (paid by the college). However, there is a little known tax code provision for that work to be non taxable so I didn’t pay taxes on it. Will those years count as substantial earnings years or not? I did file taxes those years (to get grant/scholarship $).

    1. jblankenship says:

      1) WEP reduction is capped at the lesser of a) 50% of pension that triggers the WEP; or b) 50% of the Social Security benefit; or c) 50% of the first bend point applicable to you. In your case, a) seems to apply and the WEP reduction would be $125 at the most.
      2) Yes, self employment earnings are included within your substantial earnings.
      3) If the earnings were not subject to Social Security taxation (if your W4 was marked “EXEMPT” as you were a student/employee), then those earnings are not counted toward substantial earnings.

      Check your record at – this will show your earnings over the years, which you can compare to the substantial earnings table to determine if each particular year is “substantial”.

  50. Eric Sink says:

    If all my previous 35 years of income has been subject to FICA do I still have to have 30 years of substantial income to avoid a deduction?

    1. jblankenship says:

      No – if all of your income has had Social Security tax applied, there should be no WEP reduction for you.

  51. L G Hansson says:

    How can I be certain that my SS payments are correct? Collect pension from abroad (varying amount each month depending on exchange rates) and have 40 Q of work in the US, mostly with less than substantial earnings. Info to figure out how WEP would affect my soc sec was collected quite haphazardly over the phone by SSA . I would like to see a break down to make sure the amount I receive is correct. Can I ask SSA for one or can I check myself?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes! Ask them for the calculation that’s being done to determine your WEP impact. You might need to visit a local office to do this more efficiently, but if it’s being done wrong it’s worth the effort.

  52. ms_myra says:

    What is the minimum number of years to collect this? I have 9 years of substantial earnings.

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you’re subject to WEP, that is, if you have a pension from a non-SS-taxed job, substantial earnings years are important. If you have 21 or more substantial earnings years (covered by SS taxation), then the WEP impact can be reduced. If you have 30 substantial earnings years, the WEP impact can be eliminated altogether. If you have 9 years of substantial earnings, you must accumulate another 12 years for it to begin to make a difference in your WEP reductions.

      1. ms_myra says:

        I am subject to WEP. I have the 40 credits needed to collect SSRB but I only have 9yrs of substantial earnings. Somewhere I read you have to have a minimum of 10 years. Is this correct? In other words, if I don’t have at least 10 years of substantial earnings then I will get $0?

        1. Steven S says:

          You will still get your total earned top 35 years (or less years if that’s all you have) divided by 35 calculated by SS. Then they will calculate the WEP penalty. You will still get a small check.

  53. Guy r galbraith says:

    Why on my earnings record does it show a zero amount for the year 1985? Ive been working since 1974 to now and that is the only year it shows no record of taxed social security earnings

    1. jblankenship says:

      You’ll need to get information about your employment in 1985 – a tax return, or other documentation – to determine if the SSA records are correct. Is it possible that you worked for a non-Social Security-covered job at that time? Such as a government unit, or a school district?

  54. Wes says:

    I am 62 years old,retired and not drawing SS. I have 18 years of substantial SS taxed earnings but the rest was earnings from a police dept that did not pay into SS. I am currently drawing a pension and will be subject to WEP because of my police pension. My question is: if I take a part time job that pays into social security but I earn less than the current Substantial Earnings amount, currently 24,700 , will social security give any credit toward a reduction of WEP by adding two years of income or more to exceed the 24,700 definition of substantial income?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Unfortunately no, there is no partial credit for substantial earnings less than the yearly amount. Either you meet the amount and you get a credit year, or there is no credit.

  55. Sherri0629 says:

    If i retire at the age of 60 and have 29 substantial years at that time, will my annual pension amount continue to count towards substantial years so that i will have 30 years before i can draw social security at 62? Or will i remain at 29 substantial years from the point I retire at 60?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your pension does not count as “substantial earnings”. Only wages and self-employment are counted as substantial earnings to add to your 29 years of credit you’ve already earned. So, unless you add another years’ worth of wages or self-employment to your substantial earnings years of credit, you will remain at 29 when you start receiving Social Security retirement benefits.

  56. Amanda says:

    How is substantial earnings calculated as in what line #2 or #4 on the 2018 Schedule SE Self Employment tax form is used? Thanks!

  57. Amanda says:

    Which line on 2018 Schedule SE Self Employment tax 1040 does SS use to factor in for substantial earnings? Is it line 2 or 4? My goal is to achieve another substantial earnings year as I’m in the 20-30 year range of s.e. years. Thank you.

    1. jblankenship says:

      It is your net earnings from self-employment, so Line 2. Line 4 is the result of removing the employER side of the taxation in order to determine the appropriate employEE-side tax obligation.

      1. Amanda says:

        Thank you, thank you! And ignore my other post. I had yet to refresh the website. Again thanks!

  58. Anne says:

    1. How do I calculate the impact of my social security earnings in the next few years on my benefit payment when I retire at full retirement age? Is there a formula based on cumulative taxed social security earnings and a chart to consult somewhere?

    2. How does income earned in self-employment relate to ss income and substantial earnings years (context: I’m a psychologist who previously worked in the private sector– 16 years substantial ss earnings, now working in the public sector with a pension and plans to retire with pension this year at age 63, and consideration of working in private practice for 5 – 10 years more) ?

    THANKS in advance for this and for your having such an informative and helpful website/webpage!!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Social Security has several calculators on their website that you may find useful. In particular for a situation like you’re describing, the AnyPIA (software that you download and install on your computer) would be the best, I think. This will help you to project the impact of future earnings.

      Self-employment income is counted by the net self-employment income as reported on your tax return. If the amount is “substantial” for that particular year, the year’s income will be counted in the “substantial earnings years of credit”, toward potentially reducing WEP impact.

  59. Donald C says:

    If I have 30 years of substantial earnings and receive a police pension, will I be subject to the WEP? The municipality I worked for paid into a pension and social security. Any information would be helpful. Thank you!

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you have 30 years of substantial earnings covered by Social Security, you should not have any WEP impact at all.

      1. William R Dotson says:

        According to the SSA, the very least WEP will be counted is 10% and that is with 30 or more years of substantial earnings. 30 or more gives you a 90% WEP exclusion.

        1. jblankenship says:

          No, everyone’s first bend point (when no WEP is applied) is multiplied by 90%. The second bend point is multiplied by 32%, and the third is by 15%.

          If WEP is applied (you have less than 30 years of substantial earnings credits), then the 90% factor is reduced, to as low as 40%.

  60. Mary Murphy says:

    I thought I had 30 years but discovered that I only have 29. When I went to the SSA office related to my husbands death (got a whopping $250) they informed me with 29 years I would receive ZERO social security. Is this correct?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Without knowing more about your situation I have no way to know if it’s correct or not. It doesn’t sound correct – if you’ve been working in Social Security-covered employment for 29 years you must have built up some retirement benefit…?

  61. Sheila Green says:

    I will turn 62 in 2021 and will have 20 years of substantial earnings. If I continue to work and choose to not draw social security beniefits at age 62, will my WEP reduction be less since I would have 23 years of substantial earnings instead of 20 years?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that’s how it works. For each additional year of substantial earnings beyond 20, the amount of your WEP reduction is reduced by 10%, until you have 30 years of substantial earnings. At that point the WEP reduction is eliminated. This happens whether or not you are collecting SS benefits while continuing to earn substantial years.

      1. William R Dotson says:

        Windfall Elimination Provision
        Years of substantial
        30 or more 90 percent
        29 85 percent
        28 80 percent
        27 75 percent
        26 70 percent
        25 65 percent
        24 60 percent
        23 55 percent
        22 50 percent
        21 45 percent
        20 or less 40 percent

        1. jblankenship says:

          These are the correct first bend point multipliers, if you adjust the 90% item to read: 30 or more or you have no WEP-applicable pension = 90%.

  62. Joseph Zazzarino says:

    Having been penalized by WEP for not having 30 years of substantial earnings and collecting a small municipal pension, can I have the penalty lifted if I meet the 30 year rule by continuing to work in my retirement

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, if you eventually have a total of 30 years of substantial earnings, your WEP reduction will be eliminated.

  63. Christie says:

    Today is 12/27/18. When will they post the 2019 Substantial Earnings amount? Also, is it true that if you meet your 4 credits and substantial earnings early in the year (say February or March), the credits will not get posted until the first day of the quarter, i.e., April 1; June 1; and October 1?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I’m not sure about when your credits are posted, you’re most likely correct about that timing. Mostly because the reporting is on a quarterly basis.

      The 2019 substantial earnings amount is $24,720, I believe.

  64. Jess says:

    I have a blend of wages, unearned and self employment income. What income sources are included in substantial earnings for WEP? For example, as reported AGI, or income before adjustments? Net business profit before or after SE tax deduction, self employed health care, etc?

    1. jblankenship says:

      The earnings that are subject to Social Security tax are used to determine substantial earnings for the year. Look at your earnings record with SSA (go online to get the record) – if the amount they show for your earnings for the year is above the substantial limit for that year, you’ve met the test.

      1. William Voss says:

        Should I adjust my actual earnings for wage growth to determine “substantial earnings“ for WEP years as is done in the SSA’s initial determination of you initial benefit before the application of WEP?

        1. jblankenship says:

          Not quite sure what you’re asking.

          If you are wondering whether the substantial earnings are based on indexed annual earnings, the answer is no. These figures are the actual dollar amounts that must have been earned in the specific year in order for that year to be a Year of Credit as it applies to WEP.

          1. William Brian Voss says:

            You answered my question. Thank you!!

  65. Wayne says:

    I am a Canadian who became an American last year living in the US since 1990. I am already collecting CPP in Canada at age 60 and have worked in the US since 90. Looks like I have 28 or 29 years of Substantial Earnings according to the chart. If I try to collect SS here in the US in lets say next March of next year , it looks like I’m in WEP, will they only reduce me by 44.80 according to a chart I saw that says if you have 29 years it’s only that much or am I missing something? I understand it’s gonna be reduced anyways since I am not waiting till 66 and 2 months for full amount.

    1. jblankenship says:

      That sounds about right. If you can put in one more substantial year you’ll eliminate WEP altogether!

  66. Freeman Carey says:

    I retired from the school system as an aide worker. I was paid for 8 months out of the year. Most of us had to work another job to survive. Our pay was substantially lower than that of the teachers yet we are still held to the same WEP penalty. I would not complain if our pay was year round but it seems to me we are receiving double penalty.

  67. John Davies says:

    For the 2018 it 23,850

    1. jblankenship says:

      That is correct.

      1. Tom Morton says:

        If a person works minimum wage they never reach the substantial yearly earnings. Can they collect SSI benefits?

        1. jblankenship says:

          Substantial earnings is only important if you have had non-covered work where a pension is due. In that case, if you’ve had between 20 and 30 years of substantial earnings, the WEP impact is lessened.

          If someone has only worked in minimum wage jobs for their entire career, covered by Social Security taxation, they would still have a Social Security benefit available to them. They might also have SSI available, depending upon their circumstances.

  68. CB says:

    I was a teacher from 1978 – 1984. During that time, the ISD participated in a Teacher Retirement System, but not Social Security. When I left teaching, I withdrew my money and participation in the program. I returned to the education field with a university in 2005 and worked for them 11 years. The university employees participated in both TRS and Social Security. During that employment period, I purchased my years of service credits (with money earned while paying both SS and TRS). I have retired and am receiving a TRS pension.

    1) What is the effective date on which they start counting whether or not the pension is based on non-SS earnings? (I have read 1984 and I have read 1985 in 2 places on the SS website.)

    2) If the effective date was during a school year, do they give teachers who were contractually committed to an ISD (on the initial effective date) an opportunity to complete that school year .

    3) Since I withdrew my money and participation in the plan, causing me to be ineligible for any benefits, does that waive the application of WEP (since the money paid to purchase service credits was during employment when both TRS and SS were being paid)?

    (I worked additional jobs, in which I paid SS, but some of the years were not considered substantial earnings, so I do not qualify for the 30 year WEP exemption.)

    Thank you

    1. jblankenship says:

      Answering in order:
      1) WEP applies to persons starting SS benefits after 1985 when that person is also eligible for a pension based on non-SS-covered work. When the non-SS-covered work was performed is not a factor.
      2) Not a factor – but substantial earnings under SS taxation are always on a calendar year.
      3) Yes, since you withdrew your money from the pension plan before you were eligible to receive the benefit, you should be outside of the scope of WEP application. This is my best understanding of the rules, SSA may disagree so you want to proceed with caution.

  69. Susanne says:

    I worked for 23 years contributing to social security, then started working as a teacher and contributing to their pension instead of social security. My question is did I have to meet the substantial earnings for those 23 years? A few of them I only worked part time. Also when I retire from teaching and get a part time job, do I need to make substantial earnings to qualify for more social security? Thank you

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your income will count toward Social Security benefits regardless of whether it was “substantial” according to the table. However, in order to reduce the affect of WEP, any years that you had Social Security-covered earnings that were less than the substantial amount from the table will not be counted.

      If you have more than 20 years of substantial earnings, your WEP reduction can be lessened. If you have a total of 30 years or more of substantial earnings, the WEP reduction is eliminated altogether.

      If you work part time and do not earn more than the substantial amounts, the earnings may have a positive impact on your Social Security benefit, but will not have an affect on the WEP reduction.

  70. Marc says:

    Do you need to work in all 4 quarters to count as a substantial earnings year?. To clarify, if I can retire in March while meeting the minimum in the table, would that count as a good year? And as a follow-up, and I’m not sure about this, but if leave cash outs are subject to social security taxes (which I don’t know if they are or not), and I pushed my retirement to January 1st, did not work but cashed out my leave time and met the minimum, would that be a good substantial earnings year?

    1. jblankenship says:

      First of all, substantial earnings are not based on quarters, so the answer to your first question is no, you don’t have to work in all four quarters to get credit for a substantial earnings year.

      All wage and self-employment earnings are counted toward the substantial earnings – so if a cash-out is included on a W2 as wage income, then it should be counted toward a substantial earnings year.

      1. Marc says:

        Thank you, that’s a help.

        Not a WEP question, but is there a 35 year average that would give you the maximum benefit? I would like to calculate what effect post retirement part-time or non-employment would have on my benefit. Does SSA publish this amount anywhere?

        1. jblankenship says:

          Your benefit is based on your highest 35 years of earnings, with earnings prior to your age 60 indexed for inflation. SSA has several calculators on their site that may help you to understand the impacts to your benefits by working past retirement from full-time work versus not working at all.

  71. Helen says:

    Social Security is claiming my 75-year-old mother owes them $20k for overpayment because of WEP. From 1968 to 1983, my father was the sole income earner (they divorced in 1989). She had substantial earnings from 1984 to 2002, then got a job at a local school district where she worked until she had to retire because of disability in 2015 at the age of 72. She receives a pension for her work at the school district, and did not collect SS until she retired at 72.
    My question is about how the years of substantial earnings are calculated. Surely the years that my mother didn’t work while she was raising her family and my father earned income for both of them should count towards her years of substantial earnings? And is it correct that the years that count for WEP calculation for her own earnings are only the years where she had a job that contributed to SS, and the years at the school district where she didn’t contribute do not count?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Unfortunately, the substantial earnings years are only counted if (in this case) your mother was the earner. So the years when your father was the sole income earner in the family will not help her out.

      1. Helen says:

        Wow, that’s supremely unfair!

        So according to the WEP chart on the SS website, she turned 62 in 2005, and with 20 years or less of substantial earnings, the most they can reduce her payment by is $313.50, correct? Standard $895*90%=$806 is reduced to $895*40%=$358, but thats a reduction of $448. Max of $313.50 should mean $806 is reduced to $492, correct?

        But additional factors such as the age she started collecting SS (over 70=132%) and the COLA in 2017 (0.3%) and 2018 (2%), are factored afterwards, correct?

        Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge in this area.

        1. jblankenship says:

          The first bend point for 2005 was $627 – so the max reduction is 50%, or $313.50 as you found. I’m not sure where the rest of your numbers are coming from but keep in mind that the $313.50 reduction is a reduction to the PIA (the amount she would have received at FRA), and since she didn’t file until after age 70 the total reduction is increased to $413.80 (because her reduced PIA is multiplied by 132% to come up with her benefit amount). Then the COLAs are applied from 2005 onward, to come up with her total benefit amount.

  72. MPT says:

    Do subtantial years hlave to be consecutive? I had a period between 1991 and 2006 where I did not contribute to social security.

    1. jblankenship says:

      No, they can be in any order of occurrence.

  73. GiGi says:

    Just found your site while looking for the list of SSA substantial earning. Thanks. I do have a question- I am 68, and got a job again. I am slated to earn appox 21,000 in 2018. I am 2K short of their crazy chart. (SSA) Should i try to work some OT to try and get to the benchmark of 23K something? And how much would my SSA go up, percentage wise? I have been collecting since 63 yrs of age. And SSA has counted many years of no-go for them before I turned 20!

    1. jblankenship says:

      How many years of substantial earnings do you have? If you’re close to 20 or between 20 and 30, adding a year of substantial earnings will reduce your WEP reduction by 10% (of the reduction amount). If you have way less than 20 then one more year won’t hurt but it won’t help much either. You’ve got to have 20+ years of substantial earnings to make a difference in WEP impact.

    2. GiGi says:

      Thanks for the reply, but not what I needed. First, I am not in the WEP- Windfall Provision Act. I have always pd into SSA. Been working for over 40 yrs. But SSA is not counting some of my 35+ yrs cause they don’t jive with their chart above, so they knocked some yrs out. So now I am left with 32-33 yrs of substantial earnings.
      SO back to original question about this year-Should i try to work some OT to try and get to the benchmark of 23K something? And how much would my SSA go up, percentage wise?
      thank again for any help!

      1. jblankenship says:

        Substantial earnings only applies to WEP, that’s why I answered the way I did.

        Whatever earnings you have this year will be added to your total and calculated into your PIA, regardless if you have $23,000 or not. So to answer that question, no, it’s not necessary to take on overtime to get to the substantial earnings threshold for your earnings to count on your record.

        Regarding how much of a difference it will (or would) make, it depends on the other 32-33 years of earnings on your record.

        1. GiGi says:

          Oh boy-according to several people I have spoken to at SSA, and you know they are always correct, right? LOL. They initially told me back when I was 57, that since I have a tiny pension, they assumed that I never pd into SSA. But I always did. I have IRMF, which I think you are in IL, and know about that. What is PIA, that’s what I call annoying people!
          Again, SSA people, several of them, said that my check is small cause I did not have enough yrs! They also told me when I was 61 that my amount would not keep going down, cause of lack of work then, when I hit 62. They lied on all accounts! So I finally took SSA one month before turning 63. And I have visited 3 offices in 2 states, and spoken w/5-6 people. None say the same thing. The best one was the woman who had 30 yrs on the job, and gave me wrong info!

          1. jblankenship says:

            Not sure how I can help you… If your earnings record has fewer than 35 years being counted, this can cause a lower Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). This figure is the amount of benefit you would receive if you filed for benefits at your Full Retirement Age. It’s an average of your 35 highest indexed earnings years after age 20. If less than 35, then zeros are included for those years that are missing. So any earnings will increase the average by replacing zeros.

          2. GiGi says:

            So back to my original question-should I bother to work more for the rest of the yr to get to the amount on chart? They are only counting about 32 yrs.

          3. jblankenship says:

            The chart in the article above does not apply to you. Disregard it completely, because you are not subject to WEP.

            Whether or not you work more will only matter if you’re increasing the amounts that are used to calculate your benefit. Working more may have a minimal impact on your benefit amount, but not a lot.

  74. if you get hit with WEP….and then your spouse dies…do you then switch over to GPO?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes – but if GPO takes away all or most of your survivor benefit, you will still have your own benefit. You don’t have to give that up – it will still be WEP-reduced, but you’ll still have what’s left.

  75. jack Grady says:

    Hi Jim~ How far back can substantial earnings go? For example my wife is 66 but can we go back past 1978 to count substantial?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I believe age 20 is the earliest record that is counted.

  76. Chad Pace says:

    If I have a government job untaxed by social security, but also self employment earnings equivalent to the “substantial earnings” in a given year, will I avoid the WEP for that given year and collect social security for the entire income?

    1. jblankenship says:

      To avoid WEP you must have substantial earnings in 30 or more years, and to limit WEP you must have substantial earnings in 20 or more years. It doesn’t work on a year-by-year basis.

  77. John Mosley says:

    What is the substantial Earnings for 2017?

  78. Lori boros says:

    if I earned double the amount in any given year on the earnings table will that count as 2 qualifying years instead of just 1 ?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Unfortunately, no. Each year is considered separately for substantial earnings.

  79. H.A.Beazel says:

    Is the substantial earnings gross or net income?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Gross income, unless it is self-employment then it is your net self-employment income.

  80. Jacqueline Drucker says:

    What is the amount necessary for substantial earnings for 2015?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I neglected to update the table until now – the figure for 2015 is $22,050, which has now been added to the table.

      1. Joe says:

        is there a formula to calculate the substantial earnings for 2016 etc

        1. jblankenship says:

          Substantial Earnings for 2016 remains unchanged from 2015 at $22,050.


          1. albert says:

            how do you obtain partial credit for years when you fail to make full total required for substantial earnings. is it percentange based ?

          2. jblankenship says:

            There is no partial credit. Either you meet the minimum substantial earnings for a year or you do not.

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