Whether you count on Social Security as your primary source of retirement income or a backup source, you probably want to get as much money out of the program as possible. And the good news is that with the right strategy, you can achieve that goal. Here are a few tricks you can employ to boost your benefits.
1. Extend your career once your earnings peak
The monthly Social Security benefit you’re entitled to during retirement will hinge on the amount of money you earn during your 35 highest-paid years in the labor force. Many people end up earning more money at the end of their careers than at the beginning. And so if you extend your career once your earnings have peaked, you could raise your benefits in the process.
Imagine that your 35 most profitable years in the workforce run the gamut from a salary of $35,000 a year to $135,000 a year at the tail end of your career. If you work an extra two years at that same ending salary, you’ll knock out two years of $35,000 earnings and replace it with an income that’s $100,000 higher. The result? More money from Social Security.
2. Boost your income with a side job
It’s not just the earnings from your main job that count toward calculating your Social Security benefits. If you work a side job and pay taxes on those earnings (which you should be doing), those wages will also factor into your future monthly benefit.
So say you earn a salary of $60,000 but also take in $5,000 a year doing gig work. As long as you report that $5,000 accordingly, you’ll effectively give yourself a $65,000 wage for Social Security purposes.
3. Delay your filing until the age of 70
You’re entitled to your full monthly benefit based on your income history once you reach what’s known as full retirement age, or FRA. If you were born in 1960 or later, FRA kicks in at age 67. Otherwise it’s 66, or 66 and a certain number of months.
You’re allowed to delay your Social Security filing past FRA, and for each year you do, your benefits will grow by 8%. Once you turn 70, you can no longer accrue the delayed retirement credits that boost your benefits. But if you’re looking at an FRA of 67 and you file for Social Security at 70, you’ll increase your benefits by 24%. Better yet, that’s a permanent increase we’re talking about — one you can enjoy throughout retirement.
Of course, if you can’t put off your Social Security filing for several years, you can always delay it by one year, or even by a few months. You’ll snag a smaller boost to your benefits in that case, but a boost nonetheless.
There’s no need to settle for a lower Social Security benefit when you have the power to snag a higher paycheck. Follow these tips to boost this crucial income stream. You may really come to appreciate it once retirement rolls around.