How do I calculate countable income?
Social Security allows for some money to be excluded from your countable income. This is because Social Security doesn’t restrict income to just cash. They consider many sources as countable income, listed here:
- Money you earn for work you perform (earned income);
- Payments from other sources, such as federal benefits, pensions, alimony, or child support (unearned income);
- Free rent or food benefits received from nongovernment sources, such as staying with a friend or family for free (in-kind income);
- Income earned by others in your home, such as your roommate or spouse. This is considered because even though you don’t earn this money, it is assumed that a portion of it goes towards your upkeep (deemed income).
In general, if someone gives you an item that cannot be used as, or used to obtain, food, clothing or shelter, it will not be labeled as income. Social Security does not count the following when calculating your income:
- $20/month of income other than wages (unearned income);
- $65/month of earned wages (earned income) and half of your earned wages over $65 (earned income);
- Wages that are allocated towards special impairment-related work expenses for disabled persons or blind persons;
- The first $30 of infrequent or irregularly received earned income in a quarter;
- The first $60 of infrequent or irregularly received unearned income in a quarter;
- Medical care;
- Reimbursement of expenses from social services;
- Food stamps;
- Housing or assistance or home energy assistance.
Once you add up all relevant sources of income and then apply the deductions listed here, you will arrive at your countable income figure. Again, to be eligible for supplemental security income, the maximum amount of countable income one can make is $733 per month for individuals and $1,100 for couples.
In effect, this typically means that an individual can earn up to about $1,500 per month and still be eligible for SSI benefits. This is because one could subtract $65 of earned income, then subtract half of the remainder, and lastly another $20 of unearned income, and come out with just about $700 in countable income. The closer one makes to (about) $1,500 (without exceeding it), the less they will be granted from SSI.