3 Ways to Score a Higher Monthly Social Security Benefit

Some of the sources of retirement income you have at your disposal are not guaranteed forever. For example, you can take a nice robust nest egg with you when you retire. But if you don’t manage your withdrawals carefully, or if the stock market underperforms, you could run out of savings in your lifetime.

Social Security, on the other hand, is designed to pay you a lifetime monthly benefit. And so it’s important to do what you can to get the highest possible benefit. Here are some strategies that can lead to a richer payday — and more long-term financial security for you.

Social security cards.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Make more money

The monthly social security benefit you are entitled to is not arbitrary. Rather, it is based on your personal payroll history. As such, the more money you make, the more your monthly benefit can increase.

Now you need to know that there may come a time when higher earnings won’t do anything for your future benefits. A pay cap is set each year that determines how much income you pay Social Security taxes and how much income counts toward your future monthly benefits.

This year the wage cap is $147,000. And it’s likely to change — namely, rise — in 2023. So if you’re already a very high earner, increasing your income may not result in a more generous Social Security payout. But if you earn an annual salary of $60,000, increasing your job skills and increasing your salary to $70,000 a year can have a big impact on your future benefits.

2. Postpone your submission

You are entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit based on your income history once you reach full retirement age (FRA). That age is 66, 67 or somewhere in between, depending on your year of birth.

But you don’t have to apply for social security with FRA. In fact, if you delay your application, your benefits will increase by 8% per year until you turn 70. That means if your FRA is 67, you have the potential to increase those monthly paychecks by 24%.

3. Upgrade to a partner benefit

You may have only made so much money in your career. But if you’re married to a higher earner whose Social Security benefit is much higher than yours, you may qualify for a raise through a partner’s benefit.

If you apply for a partner’s benefit from your own FRA, you can receive 50% of your spouse’s benefit on a monthly basis. Now let’s say you worked and are entitled to a monthly Social Security benefit of $1,400 based on your pay history. If your spouse qualifies for $3,000 and you claim a partner’s benefit, you’ll get $1,500 per month instead.

To be clear, you can’t collect your own benefit and a partner’s benefit at the same time – it has to be one or the other. But if a partner’s benefit results in a higher monthly salary, that’s a really good idea.

Social Security can eventually become an essential source of income for you, especially later in your retirement. As such, it pays to do what you can to get the highest monthly benefit you can. That may mean doing your part to increase your income, deferring benefits, or being strategic about the type of benefits you claim.

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