Many seniors enter retirement without much in the way of personal savings. If you expect to land in a similar boat, you may end up relying heavily on Social Security to stay afloat once your career comes to a close. And that's why it pays to get as much money from the program as possible.
But did you know that one simple move on your part could leave you with $4,440 more in benefits every year -- for life? It's a trick that's perfectly legal -- and extremely useful for anyone who's entering retirement short on savings.
Time your filing just right
You're entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit, based on your earnings history, once you reach full retirement age, or FRA. FRA depends on your year of birth, and if you were born in 1960 or later, it's 67.
Meanwhile, you're allowed to claim Social Security up to five years earlier beginning at age 62, but for each month you sign up for benefits ahead of FRA, they're reduced on a permanent basis. The opposite will happen, however, if you delay your filing past FRA. For each year you hold off, your benefits will increase by 8%, and that boost will then remain in effect for the rest of your life.
Now the bad news is that you won't be rewarded financially for delaying your benefits indefinitely. Once you turn 70, your benefits will stop growing, so that's generally considered the latest age to file for Social Security, even though you're not forced to do so at that point. But if your FRA is 67 and you delay your Social Security filing for three years, you'll snag a 24% increase in your benefits.
Right now, the average senior on Social Security collects $1,543 a month. That figure is likely to rise in time as cost-of-living adjustments are applied to benefits. But if we go with that number, delaying your benefits for three full years could raise them by $370 a month, or $4,440 a year.
Now, think about what an extra $4,440 a year can do for you. Maybe it can cover annual property taxes on your home. Maybe it can pay for your car insurance, maintenance, and fuel for a year. Maybe it can allow you to take one fabulous vacation every year and see some of the sights you've always dreamed of. Or maybe it can simply buy you more breathing room to cover your general living expenses.
No matter what you use that extra money for, having it available for life is a good thing, so it pays to consider delaying your Social Security filing as long as possible -- especially if you're nearing retirement with very little money socked away in an IRA or 401(k) plan. You may need to work a little longer to allow for a delayed filing, but when you consider that you could easily end up collecting Social Security for 20 years, 30 years, or longer, it's a worthwhile sacrifice to make.