There’s a good chance you’ll end up counting on Social Security to provide you with a decent chunk of retirement income. This holds true even if you manage to save for retirement yourself.
The good news is that your Social Security benefit isn’t set in stone. Sure, there’s a formula that’s used to calculate it. But the moves you make both during your career, as well as in your later years, could dictate what your monthly paycheck looks like. With that in mind, here are a few simple steps you can take to score yourself a higher benefit — for life.
1. Boost your earnings with a second job
Many people take on a second job because they’re struggling with bills or want to make it easier to meet a specific goal, like buying a home or taking a big vacation. But did you know that working a side gig could leave you with a larger Social Security benefit down the line?
Social Security benefits are earnings-based, so the more you’re able to raise your income, the higher a benefit you might receive. And as long as you report your side income to the IRS (which, to be clear, is a requirement), it should count when calculating your future retirement benefit.
At a certain point, the wages you earn may not count toward calculating your future benefit. But unless you’re a really high earner to begin with, that’s not something you have to worry about.
This year, wages of up to $147,000 count for determining benefits. If you earn $75,000 at your main job and boost your income by $10,000 with a side gig, you’re still well below that threshold.
2. Review your annual earnings statements for errors
Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issues workers an earnings statement. That document will summarize your wages for the year and give you an estimate of your future Social Security benefit.
It’s important to review your earnings statements for errors, because if your wages are underreported, it could result in a lower monthly benefit down the line. Say, for example, there’s a year when you earned $90,000, only for some reason, the SSA only has $60,000 of income on file for you. That’s a mistake you’ll want to fix.
If you’re 60 or older, you can expect to get your earnings statements in the mail. Otherwise, just create an account on the SSA’s website and pull up your statements there.
3. Delay your claim until age 70
You’re entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit at full retirement age, which, depending on your year of birth, is either 66, 67, or somewhere in between. But for each year you hold off on claiming benefits up until age 70, you’ll accrue delayed retirement credits.
Those credits are worth 8% a year, so if you have a full retirement age of 67 but you claim Social Security at 70 instead, you’ll snag a 24% boost to your benefits. Best of all, the higher benefit you secure will be yours to collect for the rest of your life.
Ideally, you’ll enter retirement with a decent amount of savings in an IRA or 401(k) plan. But even so, it’s still important to squeeze as much income as you can out of Social Security. All of these steps could be your ticket to a higher benefit — and since they’re all really easy moves to make, you might as well give them a try.
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