Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

You May Not Be Able to Max Out Social Security Benefits Unless You Do This

By Christy Bieber – Nov 15, 2021 at 6:15AM

Key Points

  • Social Security benefits are a guaranteed income source for life.
  • There are ways to maximize your benefits to ensure more financial stability late in life.
  • You should start planning early if your goal is to get the largest Social Security benefit.

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

If you want the largest possible Social Security checks, you need to read this.

Many future retirees want to maximize their Social Security income, and with good reason.

You can count on these benefits coming no matter how long you live. And there are annual cost-of-living adjustments built into the benefits program so you don't have to worry as much about losing buying power because of inflation. 

Unfortunately, maximizing your checks likely won't be possible unless you're able to do one key thing. 

Adult and child putting money into piggy bank.

Image source: Getty Images.

This is crucial to being able to maximize Social Security checks

If you want to make sure you're able to max out your Social Security income, you must be certain you can file for benefits at the age of 70.

That's because starting your checks at 70 allows you to avoid early filing penalties resulting from claiming before reaching full retirement age (FRA). It also enables you to get delayed retirement credits, which have the effect of raising your standard benefit annually until you're 70 years old. 

Unfortunately, you can't count on being able to earn a paycheck until 70 while you wait for your benefits to max out. Far too many people plan to work this long but end up forced to retire far ahead of schedule because their health fails; They need to take care of a spouse or other loved ones with medical issues; Or, they simply cannot find work anymore. 

If you end up being one of the millions of older Americans who must leave the workforce before age 70 and you don't want to give up your dream of maxing out your benefits, your only option will be to support yourself without Social Security checks while you wait to claim them. And you can do that only if you're prepared to support yourself without income from retirement benefit checks coming in. 

Find the right pace

Not only do you need to ensure your investments can produce sufficient income to cover the necessities, but you have to do so without taking money out of your accounts too fast.

If you withdraw too much money during your 60s while you wait to claim Social Security, you could drain your nest egg and end up running out of investment income entirely while you're still in retirement. Since you can't live on Social Security alone -- even if you've done all you can to maximize your checks -- this would be a disastrous outcome. In this case, you'd have been better off accepting the hit to your benefits that comes with claiming before 70, rather than leaving yourself reliant on Social Security checks as your sole source of support. 

To be able to maximize your benefits without worrying about jeopardizing your future investment income, your only option is to make certain you have saved enough that your investments can comfortably support you with a safe withdrawal rate and with no Social Security checks for years.

This means you'll have to save more money over your career. But it will be well worth it, because the added investment income will come with your larger Social Security checks to ensure your 70s and beyond are a time free of financial worries. 

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.