Social Security Supplement and the Social Security Earnings Test

By on December 22, 2014 in Q&A, Retirement with 6 Comments

Q: I’m currently 51 years old, planning to retire the year I turn 55. My whole career has been fire fighter covered (it will be 33 years). I hope to work part time after retirement. Will the social security supplement be subject to the social security earnings test? I thought I heard Law Enforcement and Fire Fighter retirees were exempt from that.

If I understand correctly, I can start withdrawing funds from my TSP the year I turn 55 without getting hit with the withdrawal penalty… Is this correct?

A: Special category employees, such as law enforcement officers and firefighters are exempt from the earnings test on their supplement only until they reach their “Minimum Retirement Age” (MRA). MRA is a concept that generally applies to non-special category employees, but it does affect the earnings test on the supplement for folks such as yourself. Your MRA is considered to be 56. Therefore, anything you earn up until you turn 56 will not be subject to the earnings test (currently you would lose $1 for every $2 you earn over $15,480), but what you earn after that time will be.

Regarding the early withdrawal penalty for the TSP. Anyone who separates and withdraws their money in the year in which they turn 55 or later will not be subject to the penalty. The rules for employer sponsored plans, such as the TSP are different from the rules for IRAs.

Sorry to disappoint you regarding the earnings test.

John Grobe’s latest book, The Answer Book on Your Federal Employee Benefits, has just been released by LRP Publications. The book is written in an easy to understand question and answer format and covers all areas of federal benefits from the perspective of an employee at various stages of their career. Order your copy at shoplrp.com.

© 2016 John Grobe. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from John Grobe.

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About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a consulting firm that specializes in federal retirement and career transition issues. He is also affiliated with TSP Safety Net. John retired from federal service after 25 years of progressively more responsible human resources positions. He is the author of Understanding the Federal Retirement Systems and Career Transition: A Guide for Federal Employees, both published by the Federal Management Institute. Federal Career Experts provides pre-retirement seminars for a wide variety of federal agencies.

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