Social Security isn't designed to replace your pre-retirement paycheck in full. If you're an average earner, you can expect your benefits to take the place of roughly 40% of your former wages. If you're an above-average earner, those benefits might replace even less of the income you're used to.

Still, it's a good idea to get as much money from Social Security as you can. You might even try to chase the maximum monthly benefit the program will pay.

That number changes every year. But right now, it's $4,194. Multiply that by 12, and you're looking at over $50,000 in annual Social Security income by snagging the maximum monthly benefit. But to pull that off, you'll need to stick to these three steps.

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1. Work for 35 years (or more)

The monthly benefit you're entitled to from Social Security is calculated based on your earnings during your 35 highest-paid years in the labor force. For the maximum monthly benefit to apply to you, you must put in a minimum of 35 years on the job.

2. Earn a high wage for at least 35 years

Higher earners often find that not all of their income counts toward calculating their Social Security benefits. That's because taxes on wages stop kicking in at a certain cap every year.

This year, wages beyond $147,000 aren't taxed for Social Security purposes and don't get worked into your benefits calculation, either. But to get the maximum Social Security amount in retirement, you'll need to earn at least the equivalent of each-year's wage cap during your 35 highest-paid years in the labor force.

3. Delay your filing as long as possible

Although you can sign up for Social Security as early as age 62, you can't collect your complete monthly benefit based on your wage history until you reach full retirement age, which is either 66, 67, or somewhere in between, depending on your year of birth. But to score the maximum monthly benefit, you'll need to delay your filing all the way to age 70. That's when delayed retirement credits stop accumulating.

What if you can't get the maximum benefit?

If you're not able to snag the maximum monthly Social Security benefit, you're in good company. Most seniors aren't eligible to receive that maximum benefit because they can't sustain high-enough wages for 3 1/2 decades.

Also, delaying Social Security until age 70 can be difficult. Often, it means having to put off retirement, which, for many, isn't ideal.

If you're doubtful you'll be eligible for the maximum monthly Social Security benefit, don't stress. Instead, do what you can to raise your benefit. That could mean waiting until full retirement age to file rather than rushing to sign up early. Or it could mean delaying your filing for a year to give your benefits a modest boost without subjecting yourself to too much extra time in the workforce.

At the same time, work on building yourself a solid amount of savings so you're less reliant on Social Security to begin with. A monthly benefit that's half of the current maximum might serve you more than well if you have a $1 million nest egg to supplement it.