For millions of seniors, Social Security benefits make the difference between enjoying a comfortable retirement and struggling to make ends meet.
Social Security benefits make up around one-third of the average retiree's income, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). And around 1 in 5 married couples depend on their benefits for at least 90% of their retirement income.
If you expect Social Security to make up a sizable chunk of your income in retirement, it's wise to make sure you're maximizing your monthly checks. And there's one simple strategy that can boost your benefits by around $370 per month.
Choosing the right age to claim
The age you begin claiming Social Security benefits will have a significant impact on the amount you receive each month.
Age 62 is the earliest you can begin claiming, but you can also claim at any age after that. Two of the most popular ages to claim are age 67 and age 70.
Sixty-seven is the full retirement age (FRA) for anyone born in 1960 or later. By claiming at your FRA, you'll earn the full benefit amount you're entitled to based on your earnings record. If you claim at age 62, your benefit amount will be reduced by up to 30%.
However, if you delay claiming benefits until age 70, you'll receive your full benefit amount plus a bonus each month. If your FRA is 67 years old, waiting until age 70 to claim will result in a 24% boost in benefits every month for the rest of your life.
Boosting your benefits by hundreds of dollars per month
That 24% bonus may not seem like much, but it can increase your benefits more than you may think.
The average benefit amount for retirees is around $1,543 per month, according to data from the SSA. Let's say your FRA is 67 years old, and by claiming at that age, you'd receive $1,543 per month.
By waiting until age 70, you'd receive your full benefit amount plus 24% extra, or roughly $1,913 per month. In other words, by waiting three years to begin claiming, you could receive an additional $370 per month, or $4,440 per year.
Should you delay benefits?
Delaying benefits can give you a substantial boost in benefits, but it's not the right choice for everyone.
Not everyone can afford to wait that long to begin claiming. If you lose your job in your early 60s, for example, you may be better off claiming Social Security early for an extra source of income. Or if you're facing health issues and don't expect to live into your late 70s or 80s, it may be wise to claim benefits earlier so you have more time to enjoy that money.
On the other hand, if you can afford to work later in life and are in good physical shape, you may consider delaying benefits. This is especially true if your personal savings are lacking. While working a few more years might not be appealing right now, you may thank yourself later when you're able to enjoy a more financially secure retirement.
Choosing when to claim benefits is a big decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. But if you do decide to delay claiming until age 70, you could boost your benefits and enjoy your senior years more comfortably.
The $16,728 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
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