Why the Maximum Social Security Benefit of $4,194 Is a Myth


For many people, waiting for the maximum Social Security benefit is a wise decision. The maximum benefit in 2022 is $4,194. Given that it’s guaranteed income, that’s a nice chunk of change for most retirees.

However, for the vast majority of us, our Social Security checks will fall far short of the maximum benefit. After accounting for the 5.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment, the average monthly check in January 2022 was $1,657. Continue reading to find out why it’s so difficult to collect the maximum Social Security benefit.


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Let’s take a look at what you need to do to get that $4,194 monthly Social Security check:

  • You must have worked for at least 35 years. Your Social Security benefits are calculated on the basis of your 35 highest-earning years. If you only work 34 years, your earnings for the 35th year will be entered as $0, and you will not be eligible for the maximum benefit.
  • For at least 35 years, you must have been a high earner. Working for 35 years may not appear to be a difficult task. However, in order to receive the maximum benefit, your earnings must be the equivalent of Social Security’s maximum taxable income for at least 35 years. The maximum taxable income in 2022 is $147,000, and it rises each year. In any given year, only about 6% of workers earn this much.
  • You must wait until the age of 70. Finally, in order to receive the largest Social Security check, you must wait until you are 70 years old to take full advantage of delayed retirement credits. If you worked for 35 years and earned the maximum taxable income for all 35 years, you would receive only $2,364 per month if you retired at the age of 62. If you waited until you reached full retirement age, you would only receive $4,194 per month.
  • Of course, if you’ve worked for 35 years and earned enough to qualify for the maximum Social Security benefit, $4,194 per month is unlikely to suffice for your retirement. Financial planners typically advise replacing about 80% of your income when you retire, though higher earners can often get away with replacing less income to maintain their standard of living.

However, for people who make a good living, Social Security replaces a smaller portion of their income. According to Fidelity research, Social Security would replace approximately 35% of a $50,000 salary. However, benefits would only replace 16 percent of income for someone earning $200,000 per year.



If you’re unsure how much Social Security will pay you, you can create a my Social Security account to estimate your future benefits. You can see your projected benefit if you retire at the ages of 62, 67, or 70. However, don’t be surprised if your projected benefits fall short of the maximum.

Most people will never earn enough to fully fund their Social Security benefits. Many retirees also do not have the option of deferring benefits until they reach the age of 70. Even those who are able to postpone their decision for as long as possible may discover that it isn’t worth it for a variety of reasons.

The less reliant you are on Social Security in retirement, the better off you will be. That is why it is critical to begin investing in a workplace retirement account, such as a 401(k), an individual retirement account (IRA), or a combination of the two as soon as possible. Those aged 50 and up are eligible for catch-up contributions.


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Most people do not receive $4,194 in monthly Social Security payments. However, there are numerous options for constructing a healthy and wealthy retirement.

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