It is not reasonable for retirees to expect to live on their Social Security benefits alone, but it is not a bad idea to aim for the highest possible monthly payment.
A bigger Social Security payment might come in useful if your savings begin to dry up, because your checks will not cease throughout your life. During periods of high inflation, Social Security payments rise as well, helping to protect you against declining purchasing power due to price increases.
What exactly can you do to make your retirement payments larger? There are five steps to consider, some of which may be done throughout your life and others that become available to you in your later years.
1. Increase Your Income
Social Security benefits are intended to replace at least 40% of a person's preretirement income, and each recipient's benefit is determined based on what they made while still employed.
A higher yearly salary will almost always result in a larger monthly benefit. However, to have a significant effect, you'll need to earn that greater pay for as long as possible. This implies the sooner you can increase your earnings, the better.
If you're serious about earning as much money as possible now and into your future Social Security payments, then don't be complacent with your present employment. Always be on the lookout for better possibilities; make yourself essential to your employer by offering value above and beyond what they pay you; and advocate for yourself by monitoring whether or not your compensation is keeping up with market value and requesting more money when negotiating after being hired or throughout regular performance evaluations.
2. Work More Than 35 years
After wages have been adjusted for inflation, Social Security's benefits calculation method awards retirees a proportion of average salaries during their 35 highest-earning years.
You want as many years of high earnings as possible to be part of your average. As a result, if you have low earning years included - either at the start of your career or during unemployment - having a work history that lasts more than 35 years is recommended.
If your current earnings surpass those from any prior period, on a comparable basis, try to keep working so that your average reflects more of these high-earning years at the end of your career than lower-earning years at the start or middle.
3. Delay Your Claim
Despite the fact that you may begin receiving Social Security benefits at age 62, early claimants are paid less each month. Seniors are assigned a full retirement age (FRA) based on their birth year. Even claiming one month ahead of that age comes with hefty penalties, which will limit monthly income permanently.
Those wanting the highest monthly salaries and the greatest chances of receiving more lifetime benefits will not only wait until FRA. The additional benefit for delayed retirement credits might be earned until age 70, resulting in a monthly increase for each month that a senior delays claiming Social Security past their full retirement age.
Not everyone can benefit from delaying. Those with critical health issues may be better off submitting an early claim, but most seniors would be financially more advantageous to delay the start of benefits.
4. Coordinate With Your Spouse
There are several methods for married couples to claim their combined Social Security benefits, but they won't be able to get the most out of them if they don't work together.
The best approach is frequently for the lower-earning spouse to start receiving checks sooner, allowing the higher earner to delay and maximize monthly income and survivor benefits.
However, this isn't the best plan for everyone. Those who are married or have divorced after a marriage of at least ten years must thoroughly consider their choices.
5. Minimize the Taxation on your Checks
Finally, seniors can benefit from not paying Social Security tax on the federal and state levels.
If you live in one of the 13 states that tax Social Security benefits and your local government is taking a cut, you may want to relocate.
It's more difficult to avoid federal taxes without a comprehensive strategy, but setting up a Roth IRA throughout your career may enable you to avoid having taxable retirement income that takes away from your Social Security benefits. That's because the tax formula simply considers taxable income and 50% of Social Security benefits, so Roth disbursements aren't considered.
Each of these five step may influence your monthly Social Security payments, but together they can provide a significant boost. It's important to think about which ones are appropriate for you so that you can attain the greatest degree of security in your later years.