The Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Your Social Security Benefits |  Personal finance

The Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Your Social Security Benefits | Personal finance

(Maurie Backman)

Social Security provides benefits to millions of Americans, many of whom are retired. Even if you still have many years ahead of you in the job market, it is worth learning about the different ways to make more money from the program. Here are some key tips for maximizing your social security and enjoying a higher stream of income once your time in the workforce is over.

1. Increase your income as much as you can

Social Security does not pay everyone the same benefit. On the contrary, the amount of money you will be entitled to in retirement will depend on what you will earn during your career. If you are able to increase your income, you could set yourself up for higher benefits down the line.

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Keep in mind that wages only count for Social Security purposes up to a point. This year, earnings over $147,000 don’t count toward Social Security benefits, and next year that threshold could increase. But for the most part, increasing your income is a good way to get a higher benefit, so make an effort to develop your job skills to prepare for extra pay.

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You can also consider getting a side job to supplement your income. As long as you pay taxes on these wages, they will count for Social Security purposes.

2. Work at least 35 years

Social Security takes your 35 highest earning years into account when calculating your benefits. If you don’t work for 35 years, you’ll have a $0 factored into this formula for each year you miss income – so you’ll want to make sure you have at least 35 years of recorded income. .

3. Extend your career once your earnings have peaked

Even if you reach the end of your career after working 35 years, it could still be beneficial to work a little longer. If your salary is at its highest once you’re ready to retire, working a few more years will mean replacing years of lower earnings with higher ones. The result? A higher benefit to be expected.

4. Make sure your earnings record is perfect

Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issues workers a tax return summarizing their wages. It is important to review these statements and ensure that they are correct. If your income is underreported, this could result in a lower monthly benefit down the line.

If you are 60 or older, you should receive your annual tax return by mail. Alternatively, you can create an account on the SSA website and access this information online.

5. Apply for benefits at the right time

The earliest age you can apply for Social Security is 62, but if you apply before Full Retirement Age (FRA), you will receive a reduced benefit. FRA depends on your year of birth, as follows:

year of birth

Full retirement age




66 and 2 months


66 and 4 months


66 and 6 months


66 and 8 months


66 and 10 months

1960 or later


Data source: Social Security Administration.

You can also delay your deposit after FRA. For each year you do, until age 70, your benefit will increase by 8%.

Delaying your deposit will clearly leave you with more money on a monthly basis. But before you make that call, ask yourself if this will get you the most money out of a lifetime base. If you don’t expect to live very long (for example, due to health issues or even your personal family history), it might make more sense financially for you to claim benefits from the FRA or even earlier to get the highest lifetime payout.

6. Coordinate with your spouse

You and your spouse may be entitled to social security benefits depending on your respective income. If so, you have a few options to consider.

You can decide that the higher earner delay filing as long as possible while the lower earner registers for FRA benefits or even sooner. This decision makes particular sense if the lower income is expected to outlive the higher income to a large extent.

Also, if you were earning significantly less than your spouse, you may be able to increase your monthly payments by claiming spousal benefits. Once your spouse files for Social Security, you can claim a spousal benefit on their file. And if you have reached FRA by the time you apply, your spousal benefit will be half of what your spouse receives each month.

So, let’s say that based on your own income, you qualify for a monthly Social Security benefit of $1,200. If your spouse’s benefit is $3,000, switching your benefit to a spousal benefit will instead earn you $1,500 per month.

To be clear, you cannot double down and claim your own Social Security benefit. more spousal benefit at the same time. But you can certainly claim the higher of the two.

Get as much money as possible

Social Security could end up becoming an important source of income for you in retirement. Do your best to read the program so that you are in the best position to collect as much money as possible.

The $18,984 Social Security premium that most retirees completely overlook

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