Some retirees will receive a monthly Social Security check of up to $4,194 in 2022. However, this is the maximum benefit available, and the vast majority of seniors will receive a much smaller payment.
How can you tell if you’re on track to be one of the lucky few with a Social Security income of $50,328 per year? Consider the following key questions.
1. Have you consistently earned a high salary throughout your career?
Social Security benefits are calculated based on pre-retirement earnings. In fact, they’re designed to replace roughly 40% of your earnings before you leave the workforce. This means that you’d have to have earned a lot of money throughout your career to qualify for a $4,194 monthly benefit.
How high is it? The exact amount you must earn each year in order to receive the maximum Social Security benefit is known as the “wage base limit,” and it varies from year to year. To be on track for the maximum retirement benefit in 2022, you’d need to earn $147,000 or more. This figure was slightly lower in 2021, at $142,800.
Earnings requirements vary because the amount required is adjusted to account for wage growth. But it’s always around the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $147,000, which is far above the average wage.
If you’re wondering what happens if you earn more than this amount, it makes no difference. The amount of income that counts toward determining Social Security benefits is limited. Anything you earn above the wage base limit is not subject to Social Security taxation and is not considered when calculating your monthly benefit.
As a result, if you earn less than the wage base limit in any given year, you will not be eligible for the maximum benefit. However, if you earn more, you will not receive a larger Social Security payment as a result.
2. Will you work for at least 35 years?
Social Security does not calculate your benefit based on a single year’s earnings. The income used to calculate your retirement benefits is the average of your earnings over the 35 years when your wages were at their highest.
If you work for less than 35 years, your annual earnings will be deducted from your benefits calculation. Because years of $0 wages reduce the average wage used to calculate benefits, you will not receive the maximum monthly retirement income.
3. How old will you be when you apply for Social Security?
Benefits are available beginning at the age of 62. However, if you don’t wait until you’re 70 to receive your first payment, you won’t be able to use all of your benefits. This is due to the fact that delaying your claim for Social Security increases the amount of your payment. Your standard benefit increases by 8% per year for each year you wait to claim it after reaching full retirement age.
In other words, the absolute maximum benefit is reserved for people who had the highest possible average wage used to determine their standard benefit and who increased that standard benefit by waiting until they were 70 to collect.
If you don’t do any of these three things, you won’t be able to collect the maximum Social Security benefit. But don’t feel bad: only a few people make $4,194 per month. And if you have enough supplemental savings, you won’t need such large checks to be secure in your later years.