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Social Security: 3 Smart Ways to Get More Benefits

By Maurie Backman – Aug 3, 2020 at 6:04AM

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Want more money out of Social Security? Here's how to get it -- for life.

Chances are, Social Security will play a huge role in your retirement income, so it's important to do what you can to get the highest monthly benefit possible. Here are a few smart moves that could result in a higher Social Security benefit for life.

1. Extend your career if you haven't worked 35 years

Your Social Security benefits are calculated based on your wages during your 35 highest-paid years on the job. But if you don't have 35 years of work attached to your earnings history, you'll have a $0 factored in for each year you're missing wages on file. Too many $0s could really drag your benefit down, so rather than let that happen, pledge to extend your career to erase those $0s and replace them with actual wages.

Here's an example: Imagine you're looking to retire at 67, only at that point, you've only worked 33 years. Even if you take on a part-time job for two more years, you'll still replace two years of zero earnings with some amount of wages.

Older man sitting on couch

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Boost your income with a side job

The higher your wages during your working years, the higher your Social Security benefit stands to be during retirement. But what if you're an industry that doesn't lend to much upward mobility, and the most you can look forward to is modest cost-of-living raises from year to year? If that's the case, and you're not looking to switch fields, a side job could be your ticket to higher wages that not only benefit you immediately, but also boost your earnings for Social Security purposes.

3. Delay your filing until age 70

You're entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit, based on your personal earnings history, once you reach full retirement age, or FRA. FRA depends on your year of birth, and you can consult this table to see what it is:

Year of Birth

Full Retirement Age

1943-1954

66

1955

66 and 2 months

1956

66 and 4 months

1957

66 and 6 months

1958

66 and 8 months

1959

66 and 10 months

1960 or later

67

Data source: Social Security Administration.

Here's the good news, though: The Social Security Administration will reward you for holding off on claiming benefits past FRA. For each year you do, up until age 70, you'll boost your benefits by 8%. As such, a $1,500 monthly benefit at age 67 could become a benefit worth $1,860 a month if you wait until 70 to file for it, and that boost will then remain in effect permanently.

It pays to increase your benefits

If you're entering retirement with a large amount of savings, then you may not care all that much about what Social Security pays you. But many seniors enter retirement with woefully small savings balances, and if you're one of them, it pays to compensate by getting as much money from Social Security as you can. These moves, individually or collectively, could boost your monthly benefits and put you in a much better place to tackle your retirement expenses, so pledge to make at least one of them.

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