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Working & Early Social Security

I have a question as to what Social Security uses as earnings that count against the SS income limit before your retirement age. Everyone, including Social Security workers, says gross wages. When I applied last year at 62 I originally used Social Security wages, Line 3 on W2 forms. That includes 401K contributions but not pre-tax benefit deductions like health insurance, flexible spending, health savings accounts, transit accounts, etc. In my case. over $9K. That would have meant I would receive 5 months of checks. But after talking to SS and reading everything I could on the internet, I changed my estimate to use gross wages, which meant only receiving 2 months. Now, I just received a $3800 deposit in my checking account from SS. It is because they used the wages reported to them by the IRS from Line 3, the same amount they use to calculate benefits. I'm still not sure if that is correct or not. I don't want them asking for it back later. 

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    After you take early retirement  the only amount SS uses for the additional earnings limits is the amount you earn from actually working a job which is subject to SS tax. Anything you get from a pension or other form of retirement payment is not subject to social security taxes and therefore not counted toward early retirement earnings limits. 

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