There's a good chance Social Security will end up becoming an important source of income for you during retirement, even if you kick off your senior years with a decent-sized nest egg. But did you know that you have the power to snag a higher monthly benefit?
And the best part? Scoring a higher paycheck from Social Security isn't overly complicated. Here are a few easy ways to pull one off.
1. Delay your filing past full retirement age
The earliest age to sign up for Social Security is age 62. But you don't get the complete monthly benefit you're entitled to until you reach full retirement age (FRA). That age is either 66, 67, or 66 and a specific number of months, depending on when you were born.
You can also delay your filing past FRA, and for each month you do, your benefits will increase by 2/3 of 1%. Clearly, that's not a huge boost on a monthly basis. But on an annual basis, we're talking about an 8% bump.
Furthermore, you're allowed to accrue the delayed retirement credits that boost your benefits up until the age of 70. So if you have an FRA of 67 and you hold off on filing until your 70th birthday, you can grow your Social Security paycheck by 24% — for life.
2. Get a side hustle during your career
The monthly benefit you're entitled to at FRA is based on your earnings during your 35 most profitable years in the labor force. And if you take on a side hustle on top of your main job, that extra income will count toward your wages for Social Security purposes as long as the IRS knows about it (which, to be clear, it should).
Of course, that's not the only benefit of getting a second job. You can also use that money to shore up your finances, pay down debt, or contribute to a retirement account. But boosted wages could pave the way to boosted benefits down the line.
3. Check your annual earnings statements for errors
Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will issue you an earnings statement summarizing your wages and giving you an estimate of your future Social Security benefit. You can create an account on the SSA's website and access your statement there if it doesn't arrive in the mail (which won't happen if you aren't 60 or older).
Checking your statements for errors could actually lead to a higher monthly benefit down the line. We just learned that your benefits are based on your 35 highest-paid years in the labor force. But if there's a year during which your income is grossly underreported, it could result in a lower benefit than you've earned. And so correcting that sort of mistake could spare you that hit.
The more you learn about Social Security, the easier it will be to identify ways to boost your benefits. For now, though, you can start with these simple ways to increase that income stream throughout your retirement.
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