You’ll often hear that it’s important to enter retirement with a solid nest egg. And that’s great advice. There’s a good chance the benefits you receive from Social Security won’t be enough to pay your senior living costs in full, and personal savings can help fill that gap.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to eke as much money out of Social Security as possible. And if you make these simple moves, you could wind up with a much higher monthly benefit — for life.
1. Grow your earnings
It’s a common myth that Social Security pays all seniors the same monthly benefit. In reality, the benefit you’re entitled to will be calculated based on your specific wage history. And so the more money you earn, the higher a benefit you stand to collect.
So how do you grow your earnings? You can’t just march into your manager’s office and demand a raise (well, technically you can, but good luck with that approach). Instead, work on boosting your skills — both those related to your specific job as well as your soft skills — to make yourself a more valuable employee.
You can also grow your earnings by picking up a side job. The gig economy is loaded with opportunities, and the income you earn from a second job will absolutely count toward calculating your Social Security benefits if you report it (which, to be clear, the IRS requires you to do).
2. Extend your career once your earnings peak
Social Security will take your 35 highest years of wages into account when calculating your benefits. Now chances are, if you work on growing your job skills, you’ll gradually get promoted so that by the time you’re near retirement, you’ll be earning a higher salary. And if that’s the case, working longer could lead to a higher benefit.
Imagine that in the course of your 35 highest-paid working years, your lowest year of earnings has you making $50,000 and your highest has you making $125,000. If you can replace a year with a $50,000 income with a $125,000 salary instead, you’ll boost your benefit. (Do keep in mind that Social Security indexes earlier wages to account for inflation. But you can still snag yourself a higher benefit by extending your career a bit once your salary has peaked.)
3. Delay your filing until age 70
Many people rush to file for Social Security as soon as they’re able to (which, incidentally, is age 62). But if you wait until age 70 to sign up for benefits, you’ll score the highest payday possible.
You’re actually entitled to your full monthly benefit based on your wage history at full retirement age, which is either 66, 67, or somewhere in between. But for each year you delay your filing beyond full retirement age, up until age 70, your monthly benefit gets a sweet 8% boost that will remain in effect for the rest of your life.
Even though Social Security shouldn’t be your only retirement income source, it may still end up being an important one. These easy tips could help you come away with a higher benefit — one that helps you avoid financial stress as you navigate your senior years.
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