Millions of seniors today depend on Social Security to pay the bills and serve as a key source of retirement income. If you’re eager to eke more money out of the program, here are a few ways to pull that off.
1. Work at least 35 years
The formula used to calculate your monthly Social Security benefit is based on your 35 highest-paid years in the workforce. What this means, though, is that if you don’t work a full 35 years, you’ll have $0 factored in for each year you’re missing income.
If you want to score a higher benefit, be sure to work at least 35 years. And if you can’t pull off 35 years of full-time work, at least aim for part-time work.
2. Extend your career if your earnings have peaked
It may be the case that you’re at the end of your career and are earning a far more generous salary now than you did even just a few years ago. If you push yourself to stay in the workforce a few extra years, you may be able to boost your monthly Social Security benefit by replacing some years of lower earnings with years of higher earnings.
3. Review your annual earnings statements
Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issues all workers an earnings statement, which summarizes your taxable wages for the year and also gives you an estimate of your future Social Security benefit based on the wage data the SSA has on file for you so far. Reviewing that statement is important, because if your earnings are underreported, it could result in a lower monthly benefit down the line.
For example, you may have a year when you switch jobs, but only your income from one company is reported. That could, in turn, leave you with a lower benefit than you’re really entitled to.
If you’re 60 or older, you can expect your annual earnings statement to arrive in the mail. Otherwise, you’ll need to create an account on the SSA’s website and access it there.
4. Delay your filing beyond full retirement age
You can sign up for Social Security as early as age 62, and you’re entitled to your full monthly benefit based on your earnings history once you reach full retirement age. That age is based 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
If you delay your Social Security filing beyond full retirement age, your benefits will get an 8% annual boost in the process (or, to put it another way, they’ll increase by two-thirds of 1% for each month you hold off on filing). That increase will then remain in effect for the rest of your retirement.
A higher Social Security paycheck could be yours — if you play your cards right. These tips could buy you more financial security in retirement, so it pays to take advantage of them.
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