While you do not have complete control over how much Social Security you receive each month, you do have considerable control over the size of your checks. Unfortunately, far too many people accept small benefits simply because they are unaware of the factors that affect the size of their checks in the first place. Five of these factors to consider, along with tips on how to use this knowledge to maximise your Social Security benefit, are listed below.
1. Your annual salary
Social Security benefits are calculated on the basis of your earnings during your working years. While a higher income typically results in larger benefit checks, this will not be the case for those earning over $147,000 in 2022. That is the maximum income subject to Social Security taxes; therefore, increasing your earnings will not increase your benefit.
However, as long as you remain below this threshold, anything you do to boost your income today will benefit your future Social Security checks. You could consider starting a side hustle, negotiating a raise, or switching companies if another employer offers a higher salary.
2. The number of years you’ve worked
When calculating your Social Security benefit, the government considers only your 35 highest-earning years. For those who do not work for at least 35 years, the calculation includes years with no income. This significantly reduces their benefit amount.
Whenever possible, you should aim for at least 35 years of employment, but this does not have to be the case. Working longer frequently increases your benefit, as the majority of people earn more later in life than they did in their youth. After they reach the age of 35, their higher-earning years begin to take the place of their lower-earning years in calculating their benefits.
3. The year of your birth
Everyone is assigned a full retirement age (FRA) by the Social Security Administration based on their birth year. Your FRA is 66 if you were born between 1943 and 1954. After that, it increases by two months annually until it reaches 67 for those born in 1960 or later.
If you wish to claim the full benefit to which you are entitled based on your work history, you must wait until your FRA.
4. Your age at the time of claim
You can begin collecting benefits as early as 62 instead of waiting for your FRA, but doing so reduces your checks. If your FRA is 67 and you claim at 62, you will receive only 70% of your full benefit per check. Individuals with a FRA of 66 receive 75% of their full benefit per check if they apply immediately upon becoming eligible.
Each month that you delay benefits increases your checks slightly, and this effect continues past your FRA until you reach the age of 70. That is when you are eligible for the maximum benefit. If your FRA is 67, you will receive 124 percent of your full benefit per check; if your FRA is 66, you will receive 132 percent.
5. Your expected lifespan
Your life expectancy has a significant impact on the amount of Social Security you receive in total and on the best time for you to enrol. Individuals with longer life expectancies typically benefit more from deferring Social Security, whereas those with shorter life expectancies frequently prefer to enrol immediately at age 62.
When it comes to signing up for benefits, the final decision is ultimately yours, but there are other factors to consider, such as your ability to pay bills in the absence of Social Security checks. However, you should definitely consider your life expectancy when determining your claiming age.
Combining it all
While you may not be able to change all of the factors listed here, by understanding how they interact to affect your Social Security checks, you can make better financial decisions.
Examine the factors outlined above and keep an eye out for opportunities to boost your benefits. Additionally, select a provisional claiming age. However, do not consider it set in stone. You can always make adjustments to your Social Security strategy as time passes.
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