Millions of Americans are dependent on Social Security for their post-retirement income. Data shows that nearly 20% of retirees are entirely dependent on it — with Social Security benefits constituting up to 90% of their income.
The good news is that your benefits are not “fixed” in the literal sense. There are many steps you can take to increase your Social Security payout and bolster your post-retirement income.
It pays to stay updated with the latest provisions or consult with a trusted financial advisor that can help you maximize the advantage.
In the meantime, here are five prudent steps you can take to amplify your Social Security check for years to come.
Work for as long as you can
The single biggest factor that determines the amount of social security benefits you will receive in your retirement is your average earnings during your 35 highest-earning years. So, if you have not reached the 35-year mark yet, make sure you do.
Even if you have reached the 35-year mark, it might be a good idea for you to work as long as you can. Since you are making more money now than you did when you started out, it makes sense to stretch out your career so that your highest-earning years are taken into account by the Social Security Administration.
Make sure you have no zero years
Remember, the government is counting your 35 highest earning years. If you had a few years between jobs, say to go back to school or a change of life, and earned very little or nothing, that averages a zero into your total.
It’s hugely important to make sure you work enough years, if possible to displace those very low earning years in your 35-year total record.
Delay claiming benefits
Technically, you can start receiving your benefits from the age of 62. It is, however, not a good idea, as that will reduce your monthly payments.
If you wait till you reach your full retirement age you can increase your monthly payments to a substantial extent. If you choose to wait until the age of 70, you can increase your benefits even further.
In case you have already claimed your benefits and if you think you have made a mistake, you can undo your claim, pay back the benefits you have received, and claim your benefits again at a later age.
The catch is that you can undo your claim only in the first year. If it has been more than 12 months since you started receiving your benefits, you cannot undo your claim.
Claim spousal benefits
If your work history is not sufficient to claim benefits on your own, you can sign up for spousal benefits and receive up to 50% of their benefits.
Similarly, if the benefits you stand to receive based on your work history is less than what you stand to receive in spousal benefits, you can still sign up for spousal benefits. You are entitled to receive the larger amount of the two.
Claim survivor benefits
If your spouse has died and you have not remarried, you can sign up to receive your late spouse’s Social Security benefits, assuming you are at least 60 years of age (or 50 years of age if you are disabled) and were married for at least 10 years.