Social Security Benefits: How Long Should You Work to Max Them Out?

Everyone wants to make Social Security a part of their retirement income, and with benefits based on your work history, it's important to make sure your decisions about your job fit with your Social Security needs.

In the following video from our Social Security Q&A series, Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool's director of investment planning, answers a question from Fool reader Terry about how long you should work and pay taxes into the Social Security system in order to get the most benefits. Dan points out that there are two key figures. The first involves working at least 40 quarters, which is the minimum to get Social Security on your own work record. Dan then discusses the 35-year work history record on which Social Security calculates benefits, noting that working longer can continue boosting your benefits depending on your past earnings adjusted for inflation.

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Have general questions about Social Security? Email them to, and they might be the subject of a future video!

Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (13)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 5:26 PM, VegasSmitty wrote:

    If you can do simple math, its been proven time and time again you get the same amount if you take it early or wait. Seems the MF can't grasp that concept.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 11:34 PM, kennyhobo wrote:

    If you have IRAs or a 401K with mandatory distributions that are of any significant value, your tax bracket will kill any increase in your deferred SS by the withdrawals.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2014, at 9:48 PM, george195 wrote:

    what is the maximum s.s. monthly benefit payment, married/single/widowed?

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2014, at 11:16 AM, KenLake wrote:

    Vegas Smitty - You are correct but only for people who live to average life expectancy. Live longer, you win by waiting, live shorter and you come up short by waiting. The figures use for the calculations are based on the average across the population, not any particular individual

    Kennyhobo- if you have RMD's that are high enough to trigger taxation of SS benefits, you will be taxed on the amount of benefits regardless of whether you wait or not. The net, after tax benefit will still be higher by waiting. That may not be the criteria people decide on, but it is misleading to say any increase you get by waiting will be killed by RMD withdrawals.

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Dan Caplinger

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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