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Social Security payments are an indispensable part of most people's retirement plans. Still, the majority of the beneficiaries miss out on maximizing the benefits available to them.
You can make the most of your Social Security benefits if you keep a few things in mind. Here are 6 ways to maximize your social security payments:
- Work for 35 years or more.
- File for benefits as close to 70 as possible.
- Earn more money while working.
- Claim spousal benefits available to you.
- Utilize benefits available to surviving or divorced spouse.
- Speak with a financial planner.
This article will explore all of the strategies mentioned above in great detail. Keep reading this article to know more about them.
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1. Work for 35 Years or More
Your Social Security payment amount is calculated based on your 35 highest-earning years. However, if you’ve worked for less time, say 34 years, a zero will be counted for the 35th year, which will bring the average down.
While working for 10 or more years makes you eligible for Social Security benefits, you can make the most of it by working for at least 35 years.
You can maximize your payment even more by working for more than 35 years. Usually, compared to the beginning of your career, you earn significantly more towards the latter part of your professional life.
Assuming you work for two additional years and make enough to drop off two low-earning years from the record, you can get a substantially better payment.
2. File for Benefits As Close to 70 As Possible
If you're eligible for Social Security benefits, you may claim them at the age of 62. However, if you wait till your full retirement age (FRA), which happens to be 66 or 67 for most people, you'll receive full benefits.
If you claim your benefits before your FRA, you'll lose out on a small percentage for each month before your FRA. On the other hand, if you're born after January 1, 1943, you earn an 8% extra for every year you wait to claim benefits after your FRA.
For example, if your FRA is 66 and you wait until you're 70 to claim your payout, you get 132% of your full benefits. You can check this chart by SSA to learn more about the effect of early or delayed claims on your retirement benefits.
However, there is no point in waiting after 70 because your Social Security benefits don't increase after this age. Also, note that you don't need to continue working to receive annual delayed retirement credit.
You can stop working at 61 and avail the benefits at 70.
3. Earn More Money While Working
The Social Security Administration (SSA) levies a tax of 6.2% on your income. So, the more you make, the more you pay to SSA, and the more benefits you receive.
But you will pay taxes to SSA on your earnings up to the applicable maximum taxable amount, which changes every year, thanks to inflation.
For 2023, this amount is $147,000. So, this year, even if you earn more, say $200,000, you'll only have to pay 6.2% of $147,000 as tax.
In most cases, paying taxes on the applicable maximum taxable amount ensures that you receive the best possible Social Security payout.
If you don't earn the maximum taxable amount determined by SSA, you can look for ways to supplement your income, such as taking a side hustle or working part-time or overtime.
Try to get as close as possible to the maximum taxable amount, and you'll reap the rewards for it later.
4. Claim Spousal Benefits Available to You
If you have never worked in your life or didn't pay Social Security taxes long enough, you can't claim Social Security retirement benefits.
However, and this is a fact not many people are aware of, you can still be eligible to claim up to half of the benefits your spouse will receive at FRA.
Even if you've worked and are eligible to receive Social Security payouts but happen to be the lower-earning spouse, you can claim spousal benefits and receive up to 50% of your partner's FRA benefits.
There are some caveats attached to this provision, though. For example, you can claim spousal benefits at the age of 62 but will lose some benefits for filling it before your FRA.
You’ll want to discuss this matter with an expert who knows the ins and outs of Social Security benefits so that you can understand your options and make an informed decision.
5. Utilize Benefits Available to Surviving or Divorced Spouse
When a partner dies and their Social Security checks stop arriving, it can be difficult for the surviving partner to manage without that income.
While you can't control death, there are ways you can ensure that it affects the surviving partner's economic condition as little as possible. When one partner dies, the surviving spouse is eligible to receive the deceased partner's benefits if it happens to be more than theirs.
Take this rule into consideration when filing for Social Security benefits and use this to your advantage. Typically, if the higher-earning partner waits till FRA to claim the payments, they will receive more benefits.
In the unfortunate case of their death, the surviving partner will receive their checks, which can slightly soften the economic blow.
Even if you're a divorcee, you can claim Social Security payouts on ex-spouse's earnings, subject to certain conditions, such as:
- Your ex-spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits.
- You were married to them for at least ten years.
- You're 62 years of age or older.
- You're presently unmarried.
- Your own Social Security benefits are less than that of your ex-spouse.
6. Speak With a Financial Planner
Your age while claiming the payouts, your contribution to SSA, your marital status, and a combination of so many other factors determine your payout.
You might not know all the rules, and SSA employees are barred from giving you specific advice. There is a good chance you might be leaving money on the table due to a lack of knowledge.
Your best bet is to work with a financial planner who can help you optimize your claiming strategy. You have worked hard for years, and you deserve to get the fattest Social Security checks possible.
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