Millions of seniors rely on Social Security to make ends meet in retirement. For many older adults, these monthly checks will be their primary or even sole source of income.
That means it’s especially important to ensure you’re making the most of your benefits. And there are a few moves in particular that can set you up for success in retirement.
1. Determine your full retirement age
Your full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which you’ll receive the full benefit amount you’re entitled to based on your earnings record.
If you file for Social Security before you reach your FRA, your monthly payments will be permanently reduced. On the other hand, if you delay benefits until after your FRA, you’ll collect your full benefit amount plus a bonus each month for the rest of your life.
Your exact FRA will depend on your birth year, but everyone’s will fall between ages 66 and 67. Those born in 1960 or later have an FRA of 67 years old, while those born before 1960 have an FRA of either 66 or 66 and a few months.
2. Decide what age to begin claiming
Once you know your FRA, you can decide what age to file for Social Security. The earliest you can begin claiming is age 62, but you can also file at any age after that. To earn as much as possible in benefits each month, you’ll need to wait until age 70 to begin claiming.
There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer here, as the best age to claim will depend on your unique situation.
If you have a healthy nest egg and want to get a jump-start on retirement, claiming early could be the right move for you. On the flip side, if your savings are falling short and you want to maximize your monthly benefit amount, you may choose to delay Social Security.
In some cases, the difference between claiming at 62 and 70 can amount to several hundred dollars per month. That means it’s especially important to choose wisely when deciding when to file, because it will have a major impact on your monthly income for the rest of your retirement.
3. Check your benefit amount online
Even if you’re still years away from retirement, you can check your estimated benefit amount by creating a mySocialSecurity account online. From there, you can see approximately how much you can expect to receive in benefits based on your real earnings.
Keep in mind that this number is the amount you’ll receive by filing at your FRA. If you plan to claim early or delay benefits, you’ll receive an adjusted amount. Also, if you still have several years left of your career, your benefit amount could change depending on your future earnings.
When you know approximately how much you’ll receive from Social Security, it will be easier to see whether your retirement savings are on track. If you find out that you’ll be collecting less than you expected in benefits, now is the time to increase your savings.
Social Security benefits can go a long way in retirement, and there are several moves you can make to maximize your monthly checks. By taking these three steps now, you can head into retirement as prepared as possible.
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