Warren Buffett isn’t just in the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans — he’s in the top 1% of the top 1% of the top 1%. Forbes pegs Buffett’s net worth at close to $102 billion. But there’s one way in which you just might make more money than the multi-billionaire does. Here’s why your Social Security check could be bigger than Buffett’s.
How much does Buffett receive each month from Social Security? The legendary investor hasn’t revealed the exact amount. However, we can pretty much figure it out.
To do so, we’ll need to go with a couple of key assumptions. One is that Buffett has made enough to receive the maximum Social Security benefit. The other is that he began receiving benefits at age 70.
The first assumption definitely seems a reasonable one to make. A Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A) (NYSE: BRK.B) regulatory filing in 1999 disclosed that Buffett had received $100,000 in annual income as CEO of the company in each of the previous 18 years. There’s also solid evidence that Buffett’s salary for decades before met the threshold to receive maximum Social Security retirement benefits.
It also makes sense that Buffett waited until age 70 to claim his Social Security benefits. He continues to work even at age 92. There wouldn’t have been any compelling reason for Buffett to begin receiving benefits any earlier than age 70.
If these two assumptions are correct, Buffett’s monthly Social Security check beginning in 2023 will be $3,120. This amount includes the big cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) recently announced by the Social Security Administration.
How you could make even more
Many Americans receive bigger Social Security checks than Buffett does. The most important prerequisite for doing so is to make the maximum income for taxable earnings for 35 years.
That’s not as difficult to achieve as you might think. For example, let’s assume that an individual plans to retire at the end of 2022. This person would have needed to make $45,000 in 1988 and have received annual salary increases that at least kept up with Social Security’s increases to the maximum taxable earnings amount.
Anyone who met the earnings requirement and retired at age 70 in 2001 or afterward will receive a monthly Social Security check of at least $3,231 beginning in 2023. That’s well above what Buffett likely receives.
You don’t even have to delay retirement. Relatively high earners who claimed Social Security benefits at a full retirement age of 67 beginning in 2004 or afterward also make more than Buffett.
Could early retirees have bigger Social Security checks than Buffett? It’s possible. A person who retired early at age 65 in 2017 or later would receive monthly benefits of at least $3,157 beginning in 2023.
The secret to beating Buffett
You might have already figured out the secret to beating Buffett, at least regarding Social Security benefits. The trick is to put more money into the federal program than the legendary investor did. That’s not an especially difficult task. The highest taxable income for Social Security has significantly increased since Buffett was 70.
Retirees who maximize their Social Security benefits could easily outperform Buffett in this area. More importantly, they can increase the likelihood that they’ll be able to enjoy a long, comfortable retirement.
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Keith Speights has positions in Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2023 $200 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), short January 2023 $200 puts on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), and short January 2023 $265 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.