Retirement is supposed to be a time of relaxation and carefree living. However, many older adults face financial difficulties well into retirement, which can dampen your golden years.
Social Security benefits can help make retirement more affordable, but according to the Social Security Administration, the average retiree only receives about $1,657 per month.
Fortunately, you have a lot of say over how much Social Security you receive. With these four strategies, you could potentially increase your monthly benefit amount by hundreds of dollars.
1. Put in more hours
The Social Security Administration (SSA) computes your benefit amount by averaging your earnings over the 35 most productive years of your career. If you haven’t worked 35 full years by the time you file for benefits, the size of your payments will be reduced.
Even if you’ve been working for at least 35 years, extending your career by a few years can result in larger pay checks.
There’s a good chance you’re making more money now than you were 35 years ago. Because the SSA only considers your highest-earning years when calculating your average, working a few more years now while your income is higher may result in a larger benefit amount later.
2. Increase your earnings
If you are unable or unwilling to work longer hours, increasing your income can supplement your benefits.
In 2022, the maximum annual income subject to Social Security taxes will be $147,000. The more you earn up to that limit, the more benefits you can receive. Even a small increase in income can add up to more than you think, so if you can increase your earnings, it could pay off in the long run.
3. Delay advantages
The age at which you begin claiming Social Security is one of the most important factors influencing your benefit amount. You can apply for benefits as early as age 62, but delaying a few years can result in significantly larger checks.
Assume you have a full retirement age (FRA) of 67 years old; this is the age at which you will receive the full benefit amount based on your work record. Let’s also assume that claiming at this age will net you $1,500 per month.
If you file at the age of 62, your benefits will be permanently reduced by 30%, leaving you with $1,050 per month. If you delay benefits until the age of 70, you will receive your full benefit amount plus an additional 24 percent per month, or $1,860 per month.
4. Claim all of the benefits to which you are entitled.
Retirement benefits are the most common type of Social Security, but you may also be eligible for spousal, divorce, or survivors benefits.
Spousal and divorce benefits are sometimes available to those who are currently or previously married to a Social Security recipient. In both cases, the maximum you can receive is half of what your spouse (or ex-spouse) is eligible for at FRA.
Survivor benefits are typically reserved for widows and widowers, but they are occasionally available to parents, children, ex-spouses, and other family members who were financially dependent on someone who died. The amount of survivors benefits you could receive depends on your specific situation, so it’s best to contact the SSA to see if you qualify.
For many retirees, Social Security benefits can be a significant source of income, and the right strategy can help you maximize them. You can have a more comfortable and financially secure retirement by making the most of Social Security.