In 2022, a small number of retirees will get a $4,194 monthly Social Security benefits check. This is the largest check the Social Security Administration will send out this year, and it's a whopping $2,537 more than the average monthly benefit of $1,657 many retirees will end up with this year.
If you want to get such a hefty check from Social Security, there are three steps you're going to have to take in order to make that happen. Here's what they are.
1. Have at least a 35-year work history
First and foremost, you must make sure you work for at least 35 years.
This is much longer than the minimum number of years you're required to work in order to become eligible for benefits. You can qualify for benefits after just a decade of working as long as you earn enough to max out your work credits in each of those 10 years.
So why do you need to work so long? It's because Social Security bases benefits on your average wages over the 35 years when your earnings were highest. And if you want the highest benefit possible, you're going to need the highest possible average wage.
If you have a work history that's shorter, years of $0 wages will be included when your average wage is calculated. The inclusion of $0 wages results in a lower average wage -- thus lowering your benefit amount and making it impossible to get the largest checks the Social Security Administration provides.
2. Earn at least the wage base limit for 35 years
During the 35 years of work that count when your benefits are calculated, you're going to need to keep your salary above a certain income threshold if you want to get the largest possible monthly Social Security income.
That income threshold is called the wage base limit. See, the Social Security Administration caps the amount of wages people are taxed on each year. Any money you earn above the wage base limit isn't taxed and isn't counted in the wages that go into determining your career average.
This wage base limit is actually the very reason there is a maximum Social Security benefit. If people paid taxes and got credit for all the wages they earned, very wealthy Americans with earnings of millions per year would have a huge average wage and get Social Security benefits totaling tens of thousands per month.
The wage base limit is $147,000 in 2022. It changes each year based on inflation. If you earn at least the inflation-adjusted equivalent of that limit every year for 35 years, you'll max out the average wage that benefits are based on and will be on track to get the highest benefit possible.
3. Claim benefits at age 70
Earning the wage base limit for 35 years will open up the door to getting the highest monthly Social Security benefit available, but it's not enough by itself. That's because you need to max out not only your average wage but also your delayed retirement credits.
Delayed retirement credits become available after you've reached full retirement age without claiming benefits. For each month you delay your check past this point, up until age 70, your Social Security benefit goes up by two-thirds of 1%. Ultimately, you can earn an 8% benefits bump per year until age 70 if you get the most credits you can.
So once you've earned a high enough salary to get the highest possible standard benefit based on your average wages, you'll need to boost that benefit by waiting until 70 to start your checks.
By completing these three steps, you can score the maximum $4,194 monthly Social Security benefit in 2022 -- or whatever the maximum benefit is when it comes time for you to retire.