Know the rules before taking on work for extra income in your retirement

G. TREMAIN MERRELL/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALDJanice Green-Merrell and Yolanda Lewis of the Harrison County Senior Services Agency review spreadsheets for a final confirmation.
G. TREMAIN MERRELL/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALDJanice Green-Merrell and Yolanda Lewis of the Harrison County Senior Services Agency review spreadsheets for a final confirmation.

Many seniors on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are considering returning to the workforce to supplement their incomes during their retirement years.

They are not alone.

The Social Security Administration website states that as of Oct. 13, "Social Security benefits represent about 39 percent of the income of the elderly."

The age requirement for full retirement is 66. At that age, Social Security begins deducting 1/3 of the difference earned.

In other words, they deduct 1/3 of anything earned over an allowed limit. The rules are bit complicated and can be found at the official Social Security website,, to determine how part-time income might affect your benefits.

The challenge is attainable

The challenge of comfortable senior living, although difficult, is attainable. Most seniors re-join the workforce not for a rat race, but for supplemental income.

Many businesses and organizations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast employ retired seniors in an array of low-stress jobs, such as greeters, concierges and host/hostess, and some even return to their former industries for a less-demanding job.

There also are several programs such as the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is for those 55 years or older and organizations like the Senior Resources Agency, which focuses on employing and assisting senior citizens in attaining a sustainable living after retirement.

Plan ahead

However, 65-year-old Janice Green-Merrell of Gulfport said many new seniors fail to prepare for retirement.

"So, we retire and then we find that we're going back into the job market. Now that's where the problem comes."

As the executive director of the Harrison County Senior Services Agency, Merrell said one of the greatest impediments to seniors in the workplace is technology.

With the meteoric advancements of technology in the past 60 years (the Internet especially), she said the re-employment of seniors can be difficult. However, she said, seniors offer a level of expertise that even education cannot surpass. The expertise she is speaking of is "experience."

Senior advantage

Experience is an advantage that many seniors have used to their benefit.

Carolyn Rayburn, 79, of Gulfport used her experience as the owner of a day care to land a job in childcare.

Furthermore, she said, she never really had a problem with minimizing her hours of work because all she has ever done is part-time work. For years, she was a stay-at-home mom, then she started her own day care center, which she ran for 23 years.

After leaving the workforce for a while, she accepted a position with AlphaBest Education with their after-school program, which provides her with about three-and-a-half-hours of work a day, five days a week.

"I love working with children," she said. "It keeps me young. It's the most rewarding job that I ever had. I feel blessed."

Penalties can be a deterrent

Many seniors are just as zealous as Rayburn, but they hesitate to take on part-time work because of the penalties that can be deducted from their benefits when they go over their allowed limits.

Therefore, Merrell said, some seniors feel they have to secure full-time employment.

"It's not a want," Merrell said. "They want full-time work because they need full-time work."

With their experience, seniors are employed more often than people think. Not only are seniors experienced, they also are dependable, Merrell said.

"About 70 percent of the people we employ are 60 years of age or older," Merrell said. "Senior employees tend to be a lot more stable."

Part-time work concerns

Seniors looking for part-time work need to remember that it is taxable income and reporting it is imperative. The Social Security Administration will want to know where you are working, when you started the job, the date of your check disbursements and how much money you are making.

They also will want to know about any additional help you are receiving, such as government assistance, pensions, military or veteran benefits, disaster relief, settlements, alimony, insurance, royalties, gambling winning (lottery/casino/etc.), and gifts. For a more detailed list see

Budgeting is key

Whether it is part-time or full-time work, employment after retirement is an option to supplement your retirement income.

The key to it all is budgeting your hours and your income.

Part-time work makes staying within the allowed budget easier. However, some seniors want and need more than what a part-time job can yield.

Do not hesitate to speak with an accountant, financial adviser or even your family before making any decisions about your retirement.

If you would like more information on any senior services offered by Harrison County, including senior employment, contact the Senior Resources Agency at 896-0214 or email them at or if you would like to find our more information about the Senior Community Service Employment Program, contact Jan Hale at 868-2311.

For more information on Supplemental Security Income reporting, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.