Try These 4 No-Brainers to Beat the Average $1,827 Social Security Benefit

Surviving on $21,924 a year is tough, but that’s the reality if Social Security is your only source of income. In January 2023, the average benefit is $1,827 per month — and that’s after you account for the year’s unusually high 8.7% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

Social Security benefits aren’t meant to be the sole source of money in retirement. But about a quarter of retirement-age people rely on Social Security for at least 90% of their income. Whether you’re counting primarily on Social Security to fund your golden years or you have investments and other resources, your retirement will be a lot more relaxing if you can squeeze more out of those monthly checks. Here are four no-brainers to try if you want to beat the average $1,827 Social Security check.

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1. Wait a little longer

No one is saying you have to wait until you’re 70 — which is when you’ll get the biggest check possible from Social Security. But if you want to beat the average check, wait just a little bit longer than the average retiree before starting payments.

As of 2018, the average man claimed benefits at age 64.7, while the average woman started benefits at 64.6. If you qualified for the average benefit of $1,827 at age 64 and waited just one more year, you’d boost your benefit by 6.66%, or about $120 a month.

To get a bigger boost, wait until at least full retirement age, which is 67 if you were born in 1960 or later. That’s when you’ll qualify for your full Social Security benefit. If you can delay even longer, you’ll earn 8% annual delayed retirement credits until your benefit maxes out at age 70.

2. Boost your income

Social Security uses your best-paid 35 years to calculate your benefit. So if you want to get bigger monthly checks, you’ll want to boost your income — meaning you’ll pay more FICA taxes, which fund Social Security. You could do so by negotiating for a raise, getting a better job offer, or starting a second part-time job or side hustle.

Keep in mind, though, that only earnings up to the maximum taxable earnings for any year are considered in Social Security’s benefit formula. For 2023, that amount is $160,200. Even if you earn $200,000 or $300,000 for 2023, you’d only have $160,200 of earnings from Social Security’s perspective.

3. Work at least 35 years

Since your benefit is based on your top 35 years of earnings, work at least 35 years if you’re trying to maximize your benefit. Falling short of 35 years results in some years that are logged as $0, which will push down your average earnings. For example, if you only worked for 32 years, Social Security would enter three years as $0 for your average.

Working more than 35 years can have a big payoff, particularly if your earnings are significantly higher now than they were early in your career. Replacing a low-earning year with a higher-earning one increases your average earnings. That in turn boosts your benefit.

4. Don’t forget about spousal and survivor benefits

If you’ve been married or divorced, you may qualify for spousal benefits of up to 50% of your current or former spouse’s benefit. If your current or former spouse has died, you could receive survivor benefits of up to 100% of their primary insurance amount. However, if your own retirement benefit is higher than your spousal benefit or survivor benefit, you’ll receive your own benefit. Social Security doesn’t allow you to claim both.

As with retirement benefits, Social Security reduces spousal and survivor benefits if you claim early. So to maximize either type of benefit, you’ll need to wait until full retirement age to start. However, you won’t earn 8% delayed retirement credits, so you’ll collect your maximum spousal or survivor benefit at your full retirement age.

The $18,984 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $18,984 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

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