Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

A Higher Social Security Benefit Could Be Yours -- if You Make These Key Moves

By Maurie Backman - Feb 4, 2020 at 6:03AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Here's how to secure a more robust income stream -- for life.

Chances are, you'll depend on Social Security to some degree during retirement. Maybe it'll constitute the bulk of your income. Maybe you'll have enough savings to pay your bills but those benefits will provide the income you need to travel, enjoy life, and do the things you couldn't do when you were chained to a desk during your working years.

The good news is that a few smart moves on your part could result in a higher monthly paycheck from Social Security -- and a lot more financial freedom and security in retirement. Here are the most important ones to focus on.

Smiling older man at laptop.


1. Make sure to work for 35 years

Your Social Security benefits are calculated based on your earnings during your highest-paid 35 years on the job. If you don't work a full 35 years, the formula used to determine your benefits will effectively factor in $0 for each year you're without an income, thereby bringing your monthly benefit down. Therefore, if you're nearing the end of your career and realize you're missing a few years of earnings, extending your time in the workforce could give your benefits the boost you're after. This especially holds true if you're earning a generous salary at present.

2. Delay your filing past full retirement age

You're entitled to your full monthly benefit based on your earnings history once you reach full retirement age, which depends on your year of birth, as follows:

Year of Birth

Full Retirement Age




66 and 2 months


66 and 4 months


66 and 6 months


66 and 8 months


66 and 10 months

1960 or later



The Social Security Administration (SSA), however, lets you delay benefits past full retirement age and rewards you for doing so to the tune of an 8% annual boost in your income. This means that if your full retirement age is 67 but you don't claim benefits until 69, you'll get a 16% increase.

Now, you should know that you can only accrue what are known as delayed retirement credits until age 70, so once you reach that age, there's no sense in delaying your filing further. But if you aim to hold off on taking benefits as long as possible, you could give yourself a lifelong raise.

3. Check your earnings statements for errors

Each year, the SSA issues you an earnings statement summarizing your taxable income for the year. Many people don't check these statements, especially since they don't automatically come in the mail unless you're 60 or older. But if you fail to review your earnings statement, the SSA might use incorrect information about your wage history to calculate your benefits, leaving you with less money each month during retirement.

How might that happen? Imagine you switch employers during the year, only your new employer fails to report your earnings information so that you're listed as having earned $42,000 one year when you actually earned $90,000. Administrative glitches like this can happen, but clearly, in this example, the difference could be huge with regard to your benefits.

That's why it's important to review your earnings statement each year. Fixing errors that work against you could give you a higher monthly benefit throughout retirement. If you're not receiving those statements by mail, set up an account on the SSA's website to access them there.

There are plenty of good reasons to push for a higher monthly Social Security benefit. Make these moves, and you could be sitting on extra money each month for the rest of your life.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning service.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 05/23/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.