The best guide to maximizing your social security benefits

The best guide to maximizing your social security benefits

(Maurie Backman)

Social security benefits millions of Americans, many of whom are retired. Even if you still have many years to work, it pays to learn about different ways to make more money from the program. Here are some key tips to maximize your social security – and enjoy a higher income stream once your time in the workforce is over.

1. Increase your earnings as much as you can

Social security does not pay everyone the same benefit. The amount of money you will be entitled to in retirement will rather depend on how much you earn during your career. If you can increase your income, you can set higher benefits.

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Keep in mind that wages only count for a certain point for social security purposes. Earnings above $ 147,000 are not included in social security benefits this year, and this limit could increase next year. But for the most part, increasing your income is a good way to achieve higher benefits, so try to expand your work skills to secure a higher salary.

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You can also look at getting a side job to increase your income. As long as you pay taxes on these wages, they will be counted for social security purposes.

2. Work for at least 35 years

Social Security takes your 35 best paid years into account when calculating your benefits. If you haven’t worked for 35 years, you’ll be counted $ 0 for each year you run out of income – so you’ll want to make sure you have at least 35 years in your earnings record.

3. Extend your career as soon as your earnings reach the top

Even if you reach the end of your career with 35 years of service, it might still be worthwhile for you to get a little longer. If your salary is highest, once you are ready to retire, working a few extra years will mean replacing years of lower earnings with higher ones. Result? A higher benefit you can look forward to.

4. Make sure your earnings records are in place

Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issues employees a statement of earnings summarizing their wages. It is important to check these statements to make sure they are correct. If your income is underestimated, it may result in lower monthly benefits.

If you are 60 years of age or older, you should receive an annual income statement by mail. Otherwise, you can create an account on the SSA website and access this information online.

5. Apply for benefits at the right time

The oldest age at which you can apply for social security is 62, but if you apply before reaching full retirement age (FRA), you will be looking at a reduced benefit. FRA depends on your year of birth as follows:

Year of birth

Full retirement age




66 and 2 months


66 and 4 months


66 and 6 months


66 and 8 months


66 and 10 months

1960 or later


Data source: Social Security Administration.

You can also postpone your submission after the FRA. For each year, up to the age of 70, your benefit will grow by 8%.

By postponing the submission, you will clearly be left with more money per month. But before you call, think about whether it will mean getting as much money as possible for a life basis. If you do not expect to live too long (say due to health problems or even your personal family history), then it might make more sense for you to apply for FRA benefits or get the highest lifetime pay even earlier.

6. Coordinate with your partner

You and your spouse may be entitled to social security benefits based on your respective earnings records. If so, you have several options to look at.

You can choose to have a higher-income person postpone their filing for as long as possible, while a lower-income person will sign up for benefits with the FRA or even earlier. This step makes sense especially if lower-income people are expected to survive substantially to higher-income people.

In addition, if you have earned much less than your spouse, you may be able to increase your monthly payments by claiming marital benefits. Once your spouse has applied for social security, you can claim marital benefits in his or her records. And if you have reached the FRA at the time of application, your marital benefits will be equal to half of what your spouse collects each month.

So let’s say you’re entitled to a $ 1,200 monthly social security benefit based on your own earnings records. If your spouse’s benefit is $ 3,000, increasing your spouse’s benefit will earn you $ 1,500 a month.

To be clear, you can’t double and claim your own social security benefit Plus at the same time marital allowance. But you can definitely claim the higher of the two.

Make as much money as possible

Social security can become an important source of income for you in retirement. Do your best to read the program, be in the best position to make the most money.

The $ 18,984 social security bonus is completely overlooked by most retirees

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