How Will Your Social Security Benefits Stack Up to the Average in 2022?

If you’re receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll be earning a significant raise next year.

The Social Security Administration recently announced that beneficiaries will earn a 5.9% increase in benefits in 2022 to account for cost of living adjustments, which is the biggest boost in decades.

Exactly how much more you’ll receive each month will depend on your benefit amount, however, so some beneficiaries will collect more than others. Here’s how your monthly checks compare to the average — as well as steps you can take to increase your benefit amount.

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How much does the average retiree earn in Social Security benefits?

The size of your monthly checks depends on multiple factors, including the number of years you’ve worked, your earnings throughout your career, and the age you began claiming benefits.

In 2021, the average retiree earned around $1,565 per month in benefits, according to the Social Security Administration. After the cost of living adjustment in 2022, the average benefit amount will increase to $1,657 per month for individuals. Couples who are both receiving benefits will collect around $2,753 per month, on average, in 2022.

If your benefit amount falls below average — or if you simply want to earn as much as possible from Social Security — there are ways to increase the size of your monthly checks.

Maximizing your benefits

If you haven’t yet filed for Social Security, you have several options to increase your benefits. A few strategies including working longer, increasing your income, and waiting a few more years to claim.

Your basic benefit amount, or the amount you’ll receive if you claim at your full retirement age (FRA), is based on the length of your career and your earnings. You’re eligible to collect benefits once you’ve worked for at least 10 years, but the longer you work (and the more you’re earning), the more you’ll receive in benefits.

Delaying benefits can also result in larger checks. Age 62 is the earliest you can file for Social Security, but every month you wait after that age (up to age 70), the more you’ll collect every month. This boost in benefits is permanent, too, so if you delay benefits, you’ll earn larger checks for the rest of your life.

What if you’ve already claimed benefits?

If you’re already receiving benefits, you still have options to increase the size of your checks, including withdrawing your application, suspending your benefits, or continuing to work.

If you’ve claimed benefits but change your mind, you can withdraw your application and then claim again at a later date (and receive more money each month). To be eligible for this option, you must have filed for Social Security within the last 12 months, and you must also repay all the benefits you’ve already received.

Another option is to suspend your benefits. This is ideal if you’d like to delay Social Security to earn larger payments, but you don’t want to withdraw your application. With this strategy, you can simply press pause on collecting benefits once you reach your FRA, then reclaim later down the road and earn larger checks.

You could also continue working after claiming benefits. If you haven’t yet reached your FRA, your checks could be reduced in the short term depending on how much income you’re earning from your job. But once you reach your FRA, the Social Security Administration will recalculate your benefit amount to account for your extra income and the benefits that were withheld, and you’ll receive a higher monthly payment.

Making the most of Social Security

Social Security can go a long way in retirement, so it’s wise to make sure you’re earning as much as possible. Regardless of how your benefit amount stacks up to the average, there are steps you can take to earn more and maximize your monthly checks.

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