There are numerous factors that go into determining your Social Security benefit amount, but your lifetime earnings may be the most significant.
Your earnings will determine the amount of your basic benefit, or the amount you will receive if you apply for Social Security at your full retirement age (FRA). The greater your income, the greater your monthly obligations.
In 2022, the maximum monthly benefit amount is $4,194 — significantly higher than the average monthly benefit of approximately $1,658. Here is the income required to maximize your Social Security benefits.
How to maximize your advantages
To receive the largest payments, you must consistently reach the maximum taxable earnings limit, which is the maximum income subject to Social Security taxes.
The Social Security Administration determines your benefits by averaging your income over the 35 highest-earning years of your career, and then adjusting that amount for inflation. In order to receive the maximum benefit amount, you must reach the maximum earnings limit consistently for 35 years.
This limit will be adjusted annually to account for changes in the cost of living. However, it is $147,000 per year as of 2022. In 1987, the annual maximum salary was $43,800.
If you do not earn that much, that is acceptable. Even if your income is well below the maximum taxable earnings limit, there are more manageable ways to increase your benefits.
Collect more Social Security benefits
Delaying benefits claims is one of the most effective ways to increase the size of your monthly payments.
The earliest age at which you can apply for Social Security is 62, but for every month you wait beyond that age (up to age 70), your payment will increase. Delaying benefits for just one or two years can result in hundreds of dollars more per month, which can go a long way during retirement.
For example, if your FRA is 67 years old, you would receive $1,500 per month if you filed at that age. If you wait until age 70 to begin receiving benefits, you will receive a 24 percent bonus, resulting in a monthly payment of $1,860.
Additional methods to increase your benefits
If you would rather not delay benefits, there are other ways to increase your Social Security benefits. For instance, you can ensure that you have worked for 35 years before filing.
Due to the fact that the Social Security Administration bases your benefits on your 35 highest-earning years, a full 35 years of work will result in the highest payments. If you work less than that, zeros will be added to your average earnings, reducing your benefit amount.
Additionally, you may consider ways to increase your income. Even if your annual income is well below the maximum taxable earnings limit of $147,000, a higher income will result in a higher monthly payment. Therefore, increasing your income, even marginally, can bring you closer to the maximum benefit.
Few individuals will qualify for the maximum Social Security benefit, which is acceptable. The good news is that there are numerous ways to earn greater compensation. By taking small steps and entering retirement with a plan, you can ensure that you collect the maximum amount possible.