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How to maximize Social Security benefits at retirement age?

Social Security recipients’ earnings may not be enough. We explain how to maximize benefits at retirement age.

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Each month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) sends payments to retired workers. Nonetheless, for many, their earnings are not enough to cover their costs.

Although the SSA calculates and applies a Cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to increase its value to help retirees keep up with the market, these boosts rarely keep purchasing power at the same level. A study by the Senior Citizens League found that Social Security benefits had lost around forty percent of their purchasing power since 2000. To help those that are still in the labor force hoping to land a larger Social Security check, we are sharing some tips, but none are quick fixes.

Working for a longer period of time

To compensate workers who remain in the labor force for a greater amount of time, the Social Security Adminstration offers a different payout between the ages of sixty-two, sixty-five, sixty-seven, and seventy.

What is my full retirement age?

  • Before 1943: 65 
  • 1943-1954: 66
  • 1955: 66 and 2 months
  • 1956: 66 and 4 months
  • 1957: 66 and 6 months
  • 1958: 66 and 8 months
  • 1959: 66 and 10 months
  • 1960 and later: 67

At sixty-two, a worker can retire and begin to claim benefits, but the check will be lower than that which they could receive if they continued working. For instance, for those born after 1960, a $1000 check at sixty-seven (their full retirement age) would only be worth $700. For all other birth years, the SSA provides a helpful chart.

For those whose retirement age is between sixty-six and sixty-seven, reaching this age will provide you with a more substantive retirement benefit (i.e., the full $1000). However, for those looking to work a little longer to earn a bit more cash, retirement can be delayed until seventy, wherein a beneficiary will top off depending on their birthday.

Work for at least 35 years

Similarly, to get the maximum possible Social Security payment, you must aim to work for at least 35 years. If you work for more than 35 years, you can increase your Social Security payments even more.

Make sure your work counts

Check your earnings history, as your Social Security payments in retirement will be calculated based on it.

Avoid an increase in the tax level

For those who have retired and started to receive benefits while still working, make sure your benefits do not push you into a higher tax bracket. There is always a chance that your income plus Social Security could put you higher on the tax table.

Apply for benefits for spouses or survivors

Married couples have the additional option of collecting spousal payments, which can also increase income. If a deceased spouse or ex-spouse was eligible for a higher Social Security payment, you might be eligible for that benefit.


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