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3 Moves You Can Make This Year for a Bigger Social Security Check

By Maurie Backman - Feb 13, 2021 at 7:36AM

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Want to eke more money out of Social Security? Here's how.

You'll probably come to rely on Social Security to some degree in retirement, whether it's for basic expenses, emergency bills, or leisure purposes. As such, it pays to do what you can to score the largest monthly benefit possible. And believe it or not, there are a few things you can do this year to make that happen.

1. Boost your earnings

Your Social Security benefits are based on your personal earnings history -- specifically, how much you earned during your 35 most profitable years in the workforce. If you make an effort to boost your paycheck this year, you could eventually be in line for a larger benefit in retirement.

Smiling older man holding phone to ear

Image source: Getty Images.

How can you boost your earnings overnight? Well, you can't. But one thing you can do is work on improving your job skills so that perhaps over the next number of months, you'll become eligible for a promotion and a raise to accompany it.

You can also boost your paycheck with earnings from a second job, even if it's one you do completely independently. For example, if you sign up to drive for a rideshare company on weekends or design websites for clients in your spare time, that income will count for Social Security purposes.

2. Check your annual earnings statement for errors

Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will issue an earnings statement that summarizes your wages for the year. If you're at least 60 years old, it will come in the mail. If not, you'll need to create an account on the SSA's website and grab it from there.

It's important that you check your earnings statement each year for errors, because some mistakes could result in a lower monthly retirement benefit. For example, say you switch jobs one year but your employer for the first half of the year somehow neglects to report your earnings. Missing half of your income for a given 12-month period could be a factor in your benefit calculation, so that's the sort of mistake you'd want to get ahead of.

3. Delay your filing once you're eligible to sign up for benefits

Once you reach age 62, you're allowed to start collecting Social Security. But for each year you hold off on filing, your benefit will grow.

You're actually not entitled to your full monthly benefit based on your earnings record until you reach full retirement age, which, if you were born in 1960 or later, is 67 (if you were born earlier, it's a bit sooner). Filing at any point before full retirement age will cause your benefit to be reduced on a permanent basis, so the longer you wait to file, the more money you stand to collect each month as a senior.

You're also allowed to delay your filing beyond full retirement age, and if you do, your benefits will increase by 8% a year up until you turn 70. Once you reach 70, there's no sense in delaying your filing any longer, but if you're able to wait until then, you'll score a much higher Social Security paycheck for life.

The great thing about Social Security is that once you claim benefits, it will pay you every month for as long as you live. That's why it's so important to secure as high a benefit as possible -- because while your retirement savings could eventually run out, you're guaranteed Social Security for the entire duration of your retirement, no matter how lengthy it ends up being.

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