The average senior on Social Security collects $1,661 a month in benefits. All told, that's almost $20,000 a year.
It's certainly a nice amount of income with which to supplement your retirement savings. But it's hardly enough to live on in the absence of other income sources.
That said, if the idea of collecting a mere $1,661 a month from Social Security doesn't sound good to you, rest assured that there are steps you can take to snag an even higher monthly benefit. And some of them are really easy to pull off.
1. Boost your wages with a second job
Social Security doesn't just pay benefits at random. Rather, it calculates benefits individually using a formula that takes each worker's wage history into account.
If you happen to work in a fairly low-paying field, you might struggle to raise your wages substantially. But if you go out and get yourself a side gig, that income will count toward your future benefits, provided the IRS knows about it (which it should).
2. Make sure your earnings history is accurate
The wage data the Social Security Administration (SSA) collects for you isn't guaranteed to be accurate. Often it is, but mistakes can happen.
That's why it's important to review your earnings record and make sure it's right. Correcting an incident of underreported income could leave you with a higher monthly benefit down the line.
In fact, each year, the SSA will issue you an earnings statement that summarizes your recent wages and estimates your future monthly benefit. If you're under 60, you can access those statements on the SSA's website, and if you're 60 or older, they should arrive in the mail. Taking just a few minutes to confirm that your wage history is accurate could mean getting to enjoy more monthly income as a senior.
3. Delay your filing until age 70
The monthly Social Security benefit you're entitled to based on your wage history is yours to enjoy once you reach full retirement age, or FRA. FRA hinges on your year of birth, and if you were born in 1960 or later, it's 67.
But you're not forced to sign up for Social Security once FRA arrives. If you sit tight for a few years and hold off on claiming benefits, you could boost them in the process.
For each year your Social Security claim is delayed past FRA, your benefits will increase by 8%. Once you turn 70, you're no longer eligible for a boost in benefits, so there's no sense in not signing up for Social Security at that point. But if your FRA is 67 and you hold off on filing until age 70, you can grow your benefits by 24%.
Don't settle for average
The typical senior on Social Security today might receive a monthly payday worth $1,661 -- but that doesn't mean you have to settle for that sum. If you're eager to enjoy a more generous benefit than that in the future, make a point to boost your income as much as you can, verify that your wage history is correct, and plan to hold off on claiming benefits until your 70th birthday arrives.