3 Ways to Increase Your Social Security Check After You Retire

If you work for just 10 years and pay Social Security taxes, you’re entitled to a Social Security check when you retire. Of course, you’ll need far more than that if you want to be anywhere near the maximum of $3,800 a month if you retire at 70, but you’ll be able to collect something even with only 10 years. 

With Social Security, Timing Is Everything

If you are entitled to the maximum benefit, you can collect a little over $2,200 a month at age 62, $2,900 a month at full retirement age (66), or $3,800 a month if you wait to file until you’re 70. At first glance, the obvious best choice is to delay benefits until age 70, when your check is almost double your benefit at 62. 

If you don’t plan to work until 70 and must cover your living expenses until then by other means, delaying benefits could lead to debt or depleting your savings too soon. Run the numbers using your own financial situation before you decide when to file. 

When It Comes To Social Security Benefits, Use Marriage Strategically

If you’re married, you can take advantage of quirks and loopholes in the Social Security program to increase your retirement benefits. If you are married, the lower-earning spouse is entitled to the greater of either his or her benefits based on earnings or 50% of the higher-earning spouse’s amount. 

How To Maximize Your 35-Year Earnings Record

If you’re married and planning to draw against your higher-earning spouse’s Social Security record, this doesn’t really apply to you. However, if you’re single or the primary breadwinner, maximizing your Social Security record is a big deal. 

For example: David worked for 35 years, earning between $30,000 and $125,000 a year. His Social Security benefit was based on an average annual income of $75,000. 

Your Social Security benefit is based on your average earnings over 35 years. If you work longer than 35 years, your benefit is based on the 35 years with the highest earnings.  

Melissa earned over $150,000 a year for 15 years but had no income during the other 20 years. Even though she made a lot more per year than David, her Social Security benefit was based on an average annual income of just $50,000. 

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