Social Security has a maximum annual income that it can provide to retirees. In 2022, the most money a senior can get over the course of the year from the Social Security Administration is $50,328.
Most people will not get such large payments. If you want to be one of the few that does, here are the steps that you would need to take to do so.
1. Pay the maximum possible amount of Social Security taxes
Social Security is an earned benefit. The amount you receive in monthly income as a retiree is based on a percentage of how much you earned and paid in Social Security taxes on over the course of your career.
Each year, there's a maximum limit on the amount of income subject to Social Security tax. Anything you earn above this isn't counted when your monthly retirement benefit is calculated. People who earn the maximum taxable income -- and who pay the most Social Security taxes possible over the course of their careers -- will get the max benefit.
In 2022, the maximum income subject to Social Security taxes is $147,000. This income limit changes each year to account for wage growth, so it will be higher in 2023 and beyond. It's the amount you'd have to earn to get $50,328 in retirement benefits annually.
2. Stay on the job for 35 years or longer
Remember, your benefit equals a percentage of your earnings over your career, not just over a few years. The Social Security Administration calculates your benefits by taking 35 years of work history into account. In every one of those 35 years that are part of your benefits calculation, you must pay the maximum in Social Security taxes if you hope to get the highest monthly benefit upon retirement.
You can work more than 35 years in order to achieve this if you have some lower-earning years. But if you're hoping for a $50,328 annual income from the Social Security administration, you'll need to have no fewer than 35 years of earning the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $147,000.
3. Put off claiming Social Security until age 70
If you pay the maximum possible amount of Social Security tax for 35 years, you are on track for the highest benefit available to you. But you also have to wait to claim Social Security until 70 even though you first become eligible for benefits at 62.
The benefits formula based on your 35-year work history is used to calculate the amount of your standard benefit. The standard benefit is available at full retirement age (FRA), which is between 66 and four months and age 67. But the standard benefit can be increased by earning delayed retirement credits that increase monthly Social Security benefits until age 70. If you want the highest benefit available, you must get the most delayed retirement credits you can earn.
Doing all three of these things is insurmountable for most people. But you can increase your own benefit by boosting your salary, working at least 35 years (or more if you want some lower-earning years to be excluded from your benefits calculation), and delaying your Social Security claim as long as you can to max out your delayed retirement credits. You may not get $50,328, but taking these steps can make a big difference for anyone looking for more money in retirement.