Boost your payout.
The amount of your Social Security payments depends on your earnings history and the age you sign up for benefits. Try these strategies to maximize your payments:
Work for at least 35 years.
Social Security benefits are calculated based on the 35 years in which you earn the most. If you don’t work for at least 35 years, zeros are factored into the calculation, which decreases your payout.
Increasing your income by asking for a raise or earning income from a side job will increase the amount you receive from Social Security in retirement. Earnings of up to $132,900 in 2019 are used to calculate your retirement payments.
Work until your full retirement age.
You need to claim Social Security at your full retirement age, which is 66 or 67 for most current workers, to get your full payments. Monthly payments are permanently reduced for people who sign up for Social Security before their full retirement age.
Delay claiming until age 70.
After your full retirement age, payments will increase by about 8 percent for each year you delay claiming Social Security up until age 70. After age 70, there is no additional benefit for waiting to sign up for Social Security.
Claim spousal payments.
Spouses may claim benefits based on their own work record or up to 50 percent of the higher earner’s benefit, whichever is higher. If you were married for at least 10 years, you can also claim Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse’s work record.
If you have dependent children under age 19, you may be able to secure additional Social Security payments for them worth up to one half of your full retirement benefit to certain annual limits.
Don’t earn too much in retirement.
Social Security beneficiaries under their full retirement age who earn more than $17,640 in 2019 will have $1 withheld for every $2 they earn above the limit. The year you turn your full retirement age, the earnings limit jumps to $46,920 and the penalty decreases to $1 withheld for every $3 earned above the limit.
Minimize Social Security taxes.
If the sum of your adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest and half of your Social Security benefit is more than $25,000 for individuals and $32,000 for couples, up to 50 percent of your Social Security benefit could be taxable. If these income sources top $34,000 ($44,000 for couples), income tax could be due on as much as 85 percent of your Social Security benefit.
Maximize survivor’s benefits.
When one member of a married couples dies, the surviving spouse can inherit the deceased spouse’s benefit payment if it’s more than his or her current benefit. Retirees can boost the amount the surviving spouse will receive by delaying claiming Social Security.
Make sure your work counts.
Create a My Social Security account and download your Social Security statement annually to check that your earnings history and Social Security taxes paid have been recorded correctly by the Social Security Administration. Make sure you are getting credit for the taxes you’re paying into the system.
How to increase your Social Security payments
Try these 10 ways to increase your Social Security benefit:
— Work for at least 35 years.
— Earn more.
— Work until your full retirement age.
— Delay claiming until age 70.
— Claim spousal payments.
— Include family.
— Don’t earn too much in retirement.
— Minimize Social Security taxes.
— Maximize survivor’s benefits.
— Make sure your work counts.
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Update 02/12/19: This slideshow was previously published on Aug. 10, 2012, and has been updated with new information.