You'll often hear that Social Security should not be your only income source in retirement. That's because those benefits will only replace about 40% of your pre-retirement wages if you're an average earner, and most seniors need about twice that much income to live comfortably and meet their retirement goals.
But let's face it -- even if you build yourself a solid nest egg, you'll still probably want as much money out of Social Security as you can get. You should know that the monthly benefit you're due to receive in retirement will be based on your personal earnings history. But you can snag a higher benefit with these key moves.
1. Work at least 35 years
Social Security takes your 35 highest-paid years in the labor force into account when calculating your benefits. What this means is that for each year within those 35 that you don't have an income on record, you'll have a $0 factored into your benefits calculation, thereby leaving you with less money.
To remedy that, check up on your earnings history and make sure to put in 35 years in the labor force at a minimum. If you took a career break, you may need to work an extra couple of years later in life to give your Social Security benefit the boost you want.
2. Extend your career if your earnings have risen
It may be the case that you've reached your late 60s having already worked 35 years or more. But it could still pay to extend your career if your earnings are much higher now than they were earlier on.
To be clear, Social Security already makes a point to adjust earlier-in-life wages for inflation when calculating benefits. But still, let's assume that within your highest-paid 35 years in the workforce, your lowest year of earnings has you making a $50,000 salary and your highest year, which is now, has you making $140,000. If you work one more year, you'll replace that $50,000 with $140,000. The result? A higher benefit to look forward to.
3. Delay your filing until age 70
The monthly Social Security benefit you're entitled to based on your wage history is yours to collect once you reach full retirement age, or FRA. That age is either 66, 67, or somewhere in between, depending on your year of birth.
But for each year you delay your filing past FRA, your Social Security benefit gets an 8% boost -- one that remains in effect for as long as you live. Now once you turn 70, the opportunity to boost your benefits runs out. But if you have a FRA of 67 and you sign up for Social Security at 70, the monthly benefit you receive will be 24% higher than what it would've been had you filed at FRA on the nose.
Once you start collecting Social Security, you'll receive a benefit every month for the rest of your retirement -- so it pays to snag as generous a benefit as you can. These moves could be your ticket to a higher stream of income, so it pays to put them on your radar.