Social Security and savings are two primary sources of retirement income. The more you can increase both, the better off you'll be in your later years. The good news is, you actually have several options to raise the amount of your Social Security checks.
Taking any (or all) of these five steps can help you end up with larger retirement benefits, which should offer more financial freedom once you no longer have a paycheck coming in.
1. Climb the career ladder
The more income you have over the course of your career, the higher your Social Security benefits can climb.
Each year, you pay taxes on your earnings up to a set maximum income called the wage base limit (which most people don't reach). The Social Security Administration records the amount of income you were taxed on and it becomes part of your work record.
The earnings on your work record are then adjusted for inflation and the SSA calculates a monthly average wage using the 35 years your income was highest. Benefits equal a percentage of that average wage. That means the more you can earn each year, the higher your benefits will ultimately be.
Earning more money comes from developing better professional skills and taking steps to advance in your profession. So, if you want more Social Security income, make sure your career trajectory provides you the chance to regularly boost your earnings.
2. Work for longer
The longer your work history, the more potential years of earnings you could have included when your average wage is calculated by the SSA.
If you don't have a 35-year career, your average wage will include some years of $0 earnings. If your career is exactly 35 years -- or is just 36 or 37 years -- then most or all of your working years will be part of your average. That's true even if you had some years where your earnings weren't very high because you were just starting out or were unemployed part of the time.
If you've climbed the career ladder and are earning more later in your life, working for several extra years can have a significant impact on the size of your Social Security checks. With more years of work to potentially include in your average wage calculation, some of those lower-earning years end up excluded.
3. Claim your benefits late
Seniors who wait until the age of 70 to start their Social Security checks get higher monthly benefits than those who file for benefits earlier. The retirement benefits program is designed this way.
Retirees have a choice of when to start benefits and can claim them between 62 and 70. But early filers are subject to a reduction in benefits while late filers earn an increase. If you want a higher Social Security income, you'll need to wait so you can earn the delayed retirement credits that result in the largest monthly check possible.
4. Develop a claiming strategy with your spouse
Married couples need to evaluate all the different ways to claim Social Security -- especially if one spouse earned more than the other. If a lower-earning spouse starts their checks sooner, the higher earner can allow their benefits to grow. This could sometimes lead to more lifetime income for the couple.
This is just one of dozens of different approaches senior couples could take. Be sure to explore them all and decide which combination of filing strategies works for you.
5. Claim all the benefits you can
Most people are familiar with Social Security retirement benefits. But there are also others, including Supplemental Security Income for disabled and lower-income seniors with limited financial resources.
Talk with representatives of the Social Security Administration and review all the different kinds of benefits you could be eligible for to make sure you're maxing out your income.
By taking these steps, hopefully, you'll receive plenty of Social Security benefits throughout your retirement. This money can go a long way toward ensuring you can live a comfortable life free of serious financial worries in your later years.