Social Security and Government Pensions: The Windfall Elimination Provision


If you receive a pension from a job not covered by social security and you are eligible for social security benefits from another job, your social security payments may be reduced under the Windfall Elimination Provision (#WEP). In order to plan effectively for retirement, it’s important to understand how this rule may affect your social security #benefits.


Who’s Affected?

You may be subject to the WEP if, over the course of your career, you worked as a federal, state, or local government employee as well as in the private sector. The rule affects former police officers, firefighters, teachers, and certain nonprofit employees, as well as other types of government workers.


How Does It Work?

The formula is a bit complicated and depends on the number of years you made substantial earnings under social security, in addition to your eligibility year (i.e., the year you turn age 62 or became totally disabled, if earlier). The maximum reduction is limited to half the amount of your noncovered pension in the first month of entitlement. In general, based on the formula used to calculate the reduction, the WEP has a greater impact on lower-wage workers.


Example: If you turn 62 in 2020 and have 20 years of substantial earnings that were subject to social security withholding, the WEP could reduce your monthly social security benefit by up to $480. Your reduction might be lower if you take benefits before you reach your full retirement age (FRA). Note that the WEP reduction cannot take your social security benefit down to $0, and it doesn’t apply if you have 30 or more years of substantial earnings under social security.


What About Children and Spouses?

The #WEP also affects social security benefits for children and spouses (but not survivors), as it reduces the worker’s benefit that provides the basis for the dependents’ benefits. When the worker dies, the WEP reduction is removed, and the surviving spouse’s benefit is refigured using the regular benefit formula.


WEP is often confused with another provision known as the Government Pension Offset (GPO). Although similar, the GPO affects only spousal and survivor benefits; the WEP offsets the earner’s own benefit as well as the dependent benefits derived from it.


Learn More

A helpful calculator for estimating your social security benefits is available on the Social Security Administration’s website at www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/anyPiaWepjs04.html.


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This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer. © Copyright 2020 Commonwealth Financial Network®. Presented by Dan Romaine. Dan Romaine is a financial advisor at Blue Hills Wealth Management. BHWM is located at 300 Crown Colony Drive, Quincy MA. Dan can be reached at 617-471-6800 or dan@bluehillswm.com. Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member, FINRA/SIPC a registered investment advisor. Fixed insurance products and services and College Planning services offered by Blue Hills Wealth Management and College Funding Solutions are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth.

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