The average Social Security benefit is going up in 2022. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's still lower than many people anticipate -- and it's still not nearly enough to live on.
Here's the reality about how much the typical retiree will receive in Social Security benefits next year, as well as some tips for increasing your benefits above the average and supplementing the income these benefits provide.
This is the average Social Security benefit in 2022
In 2022, the average Social Security benefit for a retiree will be $1,657 per month. This is up from $1,565 in 2021. The big increase in the average benefit is driven by the fact that Social Security recipients will receive a 5.9% cost of living adjustment in 2022 due to very high levels of inflation.
While it's good news that the average benefit is going up next year, the stark reality is that it's still not nearly enough to live on. A retiree who receives the average benefit would have an annual income of just $19,884. That isn't enough to cover life's basic necessities in most parts of the country.
This may be shocking, but it's actually by design that the average benefit can't come close to paying for all that a retiree needs. Social Security is supposed to be one of several support sources. It's meant to replace 40% of pre-retirement income, with the rest of the funds a retiree requires coming from these other sources.
How can you beat the average Social Security benefit?
If you're concerned about how low the average Social Security benefit is, there are steps you can take to try to get a monthly check that's larger than what the typical senior receives. The options available to do that will depend on how early in your career you start working toward raising your Social Security checks, as well as whether you've started your retirement benefits yet.
The best way to beat the average benefit is to earn an above-average income for as long as possible. Social Security benefits equal a percentage of inflation-adjusted income in the 35 years you earned the most. The more years you work at a higher salary, the higher your benefits will be compared with the average.
Delaying your claim for Social Security may also help you beat the average benefit. Many retirees claim early in their 60s, as you can first file for checks at 62. But delaying at least until your full retirement age (FRA) allows you to avoid a reduction resulting from early filing, while delaying until 70 will continue to raise your income for each month you wait. That's because you earn delayed retirement credits after hitting full retirement age.
You'll still need supplementary savings
Unfortunately, no matter what steps you take to raise your Social Security benefit above the average, it's never going to be enough for you to live comfortably on. You'll need to have money from savings to continue enjoying the same quality of life you did while in the working world.
Investing throughout your career in a tax-advantaged retirement plan can ensure Social Security plays the role it was meant to, acting as one of several income sources you rely on once paychecks stop coming for good.