How much can I earn and keep my SSI?

This is a particularly tough question. I previously wrote about how earning more than the Substantial Gainful Activity amount may cause your benefits to be stopped in Social Security Disability Insurance cases.

WARNING: I do not pretend to be a understand SSI benefits calculations. I strongly encourage anyone reading this to check this information with Social Security. Also, any Social Security technicians are more than welcome correct any errors I may make here.

To figure out how much you can earn, I need to introduce the 20-65-1/2 rule. This rule helps us determine the “countable earned income.”

If you are working, and receiving both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI, DIB) as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

  1. Subtract $20 from SSDI amount.
  2. Subtract $65 from he amount you earn (before taxes or any deductions) then divide by 2.
  3. Add the two amounts together

In other words: (SSDI – $20) + (gross income – $65) / 2 = countable earned income.

Let’s do an example

If you are getting $100 from SSDI and earn $150,

($100 – $20) + (($150 – $65) / 2)

$80 + ($85 / 2)

$80 + $43 (we rounded up)


Now, you take the SSI benefit amount and subtract the number we just got.

If you were getting $637 in SSI, you subtract the $123, which equals $551. This is the amount you will still get in SSI benefits.

If you are receiving SSI and also working, you would use this formula

((gross income – (65 + $20)) / 2

Note: the $20 is the unearned income disregard previously subtracted from the SSDI amount

(gross income – $85) /2

Using the amount from the previous example:

($150 – $85) / 2

($65) / 2


Social Security will subtract the $33 from the current SSI benefit amount. So, even though you earn $150, Social Security will only reduce your SSI benefits by $33.

Based on this formula, in 2009, you can earn just around $1,400 and still qualify for SSI benefits. But, please, if you find yourself in the situation really having to know how much you can make and still keep your Social Security SSI benefits, speak to Social Security.

Note: if you were reveiving both SSDI and SSI, the $1,400 in income will probably make you lose your SSDI. So, keep in mind the exceptions I discussed in my earlier article.  Many of them apply in SSI cases as well.

My thanks to Peter Komlos-Hrobsky, Supervising Attorney of the Health/Elder Unit of Colorado Legal Aid in Denver for bringing this to my attention.

  • Jettia Eubanks

    iam not good with math if i made 400.00 a month on a job and i got 649.00 ssi check how much can i keep on my ssi check

    • Deverton Stanley

      u dumb fatty…my weave fell out and i look like whoopi goldberg. u needs to stop scammin peeps on craigslist too.

  • Pingback: Can I work and still receive Social Security disability or SSI benefits? | Colorado Social Security Law()

  • Ahmad

    I receive SSDI and SSI and transferred my house on my son’s name
    through Quit claim and claims officer did not object to this
    transaction. But he said that my son could not sell it for certain
    period of time due to ‘look back’ period. He did not tell me how long
    this period is. Please can you tell me how many years is this period
    since the transfer?