Investments may help SSD recipients

Social Security imposes strict earned income restrictions for recipients receiving disability benefits. But recipients can receive unearned income without jeopardizing their Social Security disability benefits. This is notable because the average monthly benefit is $2,569 or almost $31,000 per year.

SSD benefits

Individuals are eligible for SSD if they cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or cause death. Applicants must comply with two tests.

The recent work test proves that applicants worked a specific amount of time in the three to 10-year period, based upon age, before their disability. The second test, the duration of work test, measures the time that a person worked over their lifetime. Typically, an applicant can subtract the year they turned 22 from the year they became disabled to determine the number of work quarters needed to meet the duration requirement.

The Social Security Administration will also consider a person’s medical condition, when it began, how it restricts activities, test results and the medical treatment provided.

SSD continues until a recipient returns to work on a regular basis. SSD converts to retirement benefits when a recipient turns 67 if the recipient was born in 1960 and later.

Income limits

The monthly earned income limit for recipients is $1,310 in 2021. Blind recipients are restricted to $2,190. The SSA determines that recipients who earn more than those amounts are ineligible for benefits because they are engaged in substantial gainful activity.

All earned income, no matter how small, must be reported to the SSA. It includes money from actively working such as wages, salaries, tips, bonuses, self-employment net earnings, contract work, some royalties and union strike benefits. This income is counted against the monthly maximum for SSD eligibility.

A recipient may have unlimited earnings and receive full SSD benefits for a trial work period of nine months that do not have to be in a row.


Unearned income, earnings that does not involve active work or employment, does not jeopardize SSD benefits. This passive income includes pensions, gifts, inheritances, dividends, interest, and SSD benefits.

Recipients may still invest in stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds, and real estate investment trusts without reducing their benefits. The SSA, however closely reviews investment income.

Real estate

Real estate requires scrutiny. Real estate stocks, funds, REITs investments and other passive income do not reduce benefits.

Buying physical real estate may impact benefits, however. Engaging in repairs on renovations on rental property, for example, can change passive income to earned income and reduce benefits.

Attorneys can help SSD recipients address real estate and other income. Lawyers can help assure that applicants can meet SSD eligibility requirements.




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