The average retirement savings balance across Americans of all ages is $89,300, according to Northwestern Mutual. And that's not so alarming because many people who are still in the process of building savings have 20 years or more to meet their goals.
What's a bit more disturbing is that the average 60-something only has a nest egg worth $112,500. And while a 40-something might have a few more decades to build personal retirement wealth, a 60-something might be right on the cusp of closing out their career.
As such, it's fair to assume that a lot of near-retirees are going to end up relying quite heavily on Social Security to make ends meet in retirement. And if you're in that boat, you'll be eager to score as high a monthly paycheck as possible. Here are a few fairly easy things you can do to get more from Social Security.
1. Make sure you work a 35-year career
The monthly Social Security benefit you're eligible for in retirement will be calculated based on your 35 highest-paid years of earnings. This means that if you only have a 33-year career, you'll have a $0 factored into your benefits equation for the two years you're missing an income.
It's true that many people are forced into early retirement when their preference is to work longer. But if you started working in your mid-20s and are now in your late 50s, it may be feasible to work a couple more years to get a 35-year history under your belt and still retire at a fairly young age.
Even if you don't want to keep working full-time, remember that part-time earnings count. So let's say you're 65 and took an extended career break to raise kids, leaving you with only 34 years of earnings to date. You may not want to work full-time for another year. But if you work a few hours a week and earn something, it's better than earning $0.
2. Make certain your earnings record is correct
We just learned that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will base your monthly benefit on your personal earnings history. But if the SSA has the wrong information on file, it could result in a lower monthly benefit.
You can make sure that doesn't happen by reviewing your Social Security earnings statements, which are available on the SSA's website. If you see incorrect information, like underreported income, raise the issue and get that data corrected. It could result in a higher monthly benefit once you retire.
3. Delay your filing until your 70th birthday
You're entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit based on your income history at full retirement age (FRA). That age is 67 if you were born in 1960 or later.
But you're allowed to delay your Social Security filing beyond FRA to boost your monthly benefit. For each year you hold off, up until age 70, that benefit gets an 8% raise.
So if you're eligible for $1,800 a month at 67 but you wait until 70 to file, that benefit rises to $2,232. That's a great way to make up for a savings balance that's smaller than what you wanted.
In an ideal world, you'd enter retirement with enough savings to not have to worry about what Social Security pays you. But that's just not everyone's reality. So if you're eager to get more money out of Social Security, it pays to make these moves.
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