Even if you save nicely for retirement, there's a good chance Social Security will wind up being a key source of income for you. As such, it pays to do whatever you can to boost your benefits.
You may have heard that if you delay your filing past full retirement age, you can score an 8% increase in your benefits for each year you hold off, up until age 70. But that's a move you may not be in a position to make for years.
On the other hand, there are several moves you can make today to snag a higher monthly benefit, even if you're years away from retirement. Here are a few to focus on.
1. Boost your job skills
How can getting better at your job help you squeeze more money out of Social Security? It's simple. Your benefits are based on how much you earn during your 35 highest-paid years on the job. The more valuable an employee you become, the more likely you are to get a raise, and then another raise, and then another one after that. All of those pay boosts won't just make you richer during your working years; they'll also set you up for higher Social Security benefits when you're older.
2. Know what you're worth
Many workers today don't realize they're underpaid because they don't bother to research salary data for their industries and see how their earnings stack up. But if you're willing to put in the time, you may find that you're paid less than the typical worker in your geographic region with your job title. And if that's the case, bringing that data to your employer's attention could result in an instant pay boost, thereby bringing your Social Security benefits up, as well. Job site Glassdoor makes it easy to compare salary data, so that could be a good starting point for you.
3. Check your annual earnings statements for errors
Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issues workers an earnings statement. That document will state what your taxable wages look like each year and also provide an estimate of what your monthly Social Security benefit may look like in retirement (keeping in mind that the younger you are, the less accurate that estimate will be). Sometimes, though, the SSA gets bad information, such as incorrect wage data from employers. And if your earnings are underreported, it could result in lower benefits once you're ready to retire.
That's why it's crucial to check your annual earnings statement for errors and report mistakes that work against you to the SSA. If you're 60 or older, your earnings statement will arrive by mail. If you're younger, you can access that document by creating an account on the SSA's website.
You'll probably need your Social Security benefits to cover some of your living costs in retirement or to enjoy your senior years to the fullest. Even if you're nowhere close to being old enough to leave the workforce, you can still take steps to secure a higher monthly benefit -- for life.