Social Security may prove to be much more important to you when you retire than you ever imagined. For example, consider that according to the Social Security Administration (SSA):
- “Social benefits represent about 30% of the income of the elderly.”
- “Among older Social Security beneficiaries, 37% of men and 42% of women receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security.”
- “Among older Social Security beneficiaries, 12% of men and 15% of women depend on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.”
Given all this, it is critical to get the most out of the program. A lucky few can increase their benefit checks by $1,830 a month — about $22,000 a year — and the rest of us can still increase our future checks by 24% or more.
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How to get that extra $1,830
Here’s where the extra $1,830 comes from: If you qualify for the greatest possible benefits and retire at age 62 in 2022, you can look forward to $2,364 a month, or about $28,000 a year. But those who retire in 2022 and qualify for the biggest benefits anyone delay who begins collecting benefits until age 70 receives $4,194 per month. The difference between those amounts is… $1,830.
If you’re a maximum earner, meaning you’ve earned the maximum amount that counts toward Social Security (currently $147,000), in each of at least 35 years, then you can look forward to that $2,364 per month – if you do this with retires at age 62. But if you’re willing to delay collecting your benefits, they’ll get bigger. You can maximize those benefits by waiting until age 70 — which will happen for you in 2030. At that point, the maximum benefit will actually be significantly more than $4,194, as Social Security benefits are regularly reimbursed. home adaptations — so you get even more than $1,830 extra per month. Hurrah!
Of course, this means collecting fewer checks on your retirement. However, those checks are larger than if you would start collecting your benefit earlier. For careful retirement planners, this calculation can make a huge difference.
How the Rest of Us Can Increase Our Social Security Benefits
Of course, few of us will have made that maximum amount — $147,000 — by 2022, and even fewer will eventually retire after earning the maximum in each of 35 years. After all, our benefits are based on our (inflation-adjusted) earnings in the 35 years in which we earned the most. But we can still increase our Social Security benefits in multiple ways. For example:
- Earn more: If you can increase your earnings in any of your 35 highest earning years, that will increase your ultimate benefits to some degree. You could do this by taking a part-time job for a few or many years, or by working hard to get promotions and/or better-paying jobs.
- Working longer: If you planned to retire after working for 30 years, your benefits will be factored in for five years. Aim to work for at least 35 years. If you make a lot in the 35th year, you could work a few more years so that a year with higher earning capacity can start a year with less earning.
- Delay in collecting your benefits: We can start collecting at age 62, in which case our benefit checks will be smaller (although we will collect many), or we can delay until age 70, to maximize them. If your benefit at full retirement age (66 or 67 for most of us) were $2,000, it might be just $1,400 if you start at age 62, but $2,480 if you wait until you’re 70. That’s a difference of $1,080, or nearly $13,000 per year.
Don’t leave the size of your Social Security benefits and when you claim them to chance. Each of us should think carefully about when is the best time to claim our benefits. Read more about social security and come up with a healthy retirement plan.