Major ways Americans maximize Social Security benefits

Social Security benefits are primarily based on a person’s earnings from covered employment.

Those earnings are reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA), but it is important for individuals to check the record the agency has on file to be sure everything is in order.

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American workers automatically receive a personal Social Security statement about three months before their birthdays. It contains information regarding a person’s earnings year by year and includes estimates on benefits for which one qualifies.

Information about records can also be found on the SSA’s website

Americans nearing retirement age, and even well before, are wise to understand some simple ways they can increase the amount of their benefit checks when their working days are over.

Three major ways to maximize Social Security income

There are other specifics, but three simple and important methods Americans can use to maximize Social Security benefits cover the basics and are a good first place to look.

The first is for people to have long careers. Social Security benefits are calculated on workers’ 35 highest-earning years. So working at least that many years is key.

Because benefits are also influenced by how much money a person earns during their working years, benefits will be higher for people who make more money. So increasing one’s income through side jobs and raises adds more to their benefit checks.

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Another consideration is the age at which a person applies for Social Security benefits. People can retire at 62, but the amount of benefit income they receive increases the later they do so.

Working until one’s full retirement age will result in bigger Social Security checks. In 2024, people who turn 62 have a full retirement age of 67 years old.

And delaying retirement even further, to age 70, increases them even more. A benefit grows by about 8% every year a worker delays applying for benefits beyond their full retirement age.

Retirement plan charts and graphs are pictured on a desk. There are several ways Americans can maximize their Social Security income.


Other ways to maximize Social Security benefits

Beyond those simple facts, there are other ways Americans in certain life situations can get more out of their Social Security payments.

One common situation in this regard includes people who are married or divorced.

In the event of the passing of a spouse, the one still living will receive a portion of the deceased spouse’s benefits. How much will depend on how long the deceased spouse had been receiving Social Security benefits.

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In cases of divorce, people can still claim some benefits on their ex-spouse’s earnings.

Because these scenarios involve some more complex details, it is important for individuals to take a deeper dive into how benefits can be maximized.

There other scenarios as well. For that reason, it can be very important for people to discuss these matters with a financial advisor who has a very rich understanding of the Social Security program.

One other fact to know about is that if a person wants to change their approach to Social Security after having retired early (but before age 70), it is possible to request a suspension of those benefits.

That will also earn a person delayed retirement credits at the 8% annual rate. At 70 years of age, the paychecks will begin at the increased amount.

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