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3 Career Moves That Can Boost Your Social Security Benefits

By Maurie Backman – Nov 19, 2019 at 8:36AM

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It pays to give your benefits the highest bump possible. Here's how.

Chances are, Social Security will serve as a critical source of retirement income once you leave the workforce. As such, you should be motivated to do everything in your power to boost those benefits as much as you can. Here are three career-specific moves you can make that could be instrumental in achieving that goal.

1. Fight for raises

Your Social Security benefits are based on your average monthly wages, adjusted for inflation, during your 35 highest-paid years of earnings. It therefore stands to reason that the higher a salary you command, the more money you'll collect in benefits down the line.

Smiling man in business suit and tie at laptop


That's why it's crucial to fight for raises throughout your career, and one of the most effective ways to do so is to go in knowing your true worth. To this end, dig around on job sites like Glassdoor to see what the average employee with your job title earns in your neck of the woods (keeping in mind that salaries can vary by metro area/geographic location). If your salary falls well below the average, you'll have a leg to stand on when you attempt to negotiate higher pay.

It also helps to approach salary negotiations from a place of confidence, so before having those discussions, compile some strong talking points to make your case. You should especially focus on the ways you add value to your company, and if you have hard numbers to back up your claims (such as the fact that your software patch reduced internal network failures by 40% over the past year), be sure to present them.

2. Extend your career

As stated above, Social Security's benefits formula takes your top 35 working years into account when determining how much money you'll be entitled to in retirement. But for each year within that top 35 you don't have an income on record, you'll have a glaring $0 factored into your personal equation. If you took time off at any point during your career, whether to raise children, care for a senior family member, or for another purpose, then you may not have 35 full years of earnings under your belt, in which case extending your career is a smart move, as it allows you to replace some $0 years with an actual income.

Even if you did work a full 35 years, extending your career could still help your benefits if your earnings have increased substantially over time. Imagine that within your top 35 years of income, your lowest year of earnings on record has you bringing home $40,000. If you're able to replace that $40,000 with a salary of $120,000, it could bring your benefits way up.

3. Get a side hustle

Many people work a second job to boost their savings, pay down debt, or simply have more money on hand for leisure. But getting a side hustle could help from a Social Security standpoint, too. The more Social Security tax you pay, the higher your benefits stand to be in the future. And since you're required to pay taxes on any secondary earnings you bring in, you'll have a chance to improve your near-term financial picture while helping your benefits simultaneously.

The moves you make during your career could result in a higher paycheck from Social Security once you're retired. It pays to read up on how Social Security works so you can maximize your options for boosting your benefits while you can.

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