Will Your 2023 Social Security Check Beat the Average?

By now, all Social Security beneficiaries should have received a notice indicating the amount of their 2023 monthly checks. Everyone will see a significant jump thanks to the massive 8.7% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). But since each person’s benefit is different, their raise will be different too.

Here’s what you need to know to figure out how your 2023 benefit stacks up to the average and the factors that influence how much you get.

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What’s the average Social Security benefit in 2023?

The average monthly Social Security check changes over time as older beneficiaries die and new ones sign up. The annual COLAs also play a role, and this year, it’s a pretty substantial one. The average Social Security check is projected to climb by $147 after the 2023 COLA goes into effect, bringing the average monthly benefit from $1,680 per month in December 2022 to $1,827 per month as of January 2023.

But again, this is just an average figure. You should have received a notice by mail from the Social Security Administration in December listing your 2023 monthly benefit. You can also look this up yourself in your my Social Security account. If you’re having trouble locating your new benefit amount or you believe the new amount is incorrect in some way, reach out to the Social Security Administration by phone or by visiting your local Social Security office for more information.

Why do some people get more from Social Security in 2023 than others?

When you sign up for Social Security, the government runs a series of calculations to determine the size of your initial monthly checks. It begins by determining your average monthly income over your 35 highest-earning years, adjusted for inflation. Then, it puts this amount through the benefit formula that was in place in the year you turned 60.

The result of this formula is known as your primary insurance amount (PIA). But that’s not always the same as your monthly checks. In order to claim your PIA, you must wait until your full retirement age (FRA) to sign up for benefits. This is somewhere between 66 and 67, depending on your birth year.

If you claim before your FRA, the government shrinks your checks by up to 30%. And if you put off benefits past your FRA, you earn delayed retirement credits that increase your checks by up to 32%. The result of this adjustment for your initial claiming age is how much you actually receive in benefits.

This series of calculations allows for huge differences in how much each person receives from the program. Even two people who earned similar amounts over their careers could wind up with significantly different checks depending on their age when they claimed.

When COLAs take effect, the government applies them to your PIA, and then your checks once again get adjusted up or down, depending on your age when you first signed up for benefits. So someone might only see a $100 increase in their monthly checks while another person could get $200 more.

Can you boost your 2023 Social Security benefit?

If you’re already claiming Social Security, there’s not a lot you can do to increase your benefits further. You may be able to withdraw your Social Security application if it’s been less than one year since you applied. This will enable you to accumulate delayed retirement credits that will boost your benefit when you sign up again. But in order to do this, you must pay back all benefits you and anyone claiming Social Security on your work record have received from the program to date.

When withdrawing your Social Security application isn’t an option, you can choose to suspend benefits once you reach your FRA. If you do this, the government will stop sending you checks until you either turn 70 or request that your checks begin again. During the time you’re not receiving benefits, you’ll earn delayed retirement credits that will boost your future checks.

If neither of those things are possible for you, you’ll just have to make do with the Social Security benefit you’re currently receiving. Keep in mind this will continue to increase over time as future COLAs boost your checks even further.

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