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These 2 Easy Moves Could Be Your Ticket to a Higher Social Security Benefit

By Maurie Backman - Mar 20, 2021 at 5:48AM

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Want more money from Social Security? Getting it may be simpler than you'd imagine.

Social Security pays the average senior today $1,543 a month. That's a nice chunk of money, especially if you also have retirement savings to supplement your benefits. But what if you don't have much of a nest egg? In that case, scoring a higher payday from Social Security is crucial. And here are two easy moves that can help you do just that.

1. Make sure you work a full 35 years

Some people think Social Security benefits are universal -- that all seniors receive the same amount of money from it. But that's not true. Your monthly benefit will be calculated based on your personal earnings history. Specifically, your 35 highest-paid years of earnings will go into that calculation. But if you don't work a full 35 years, you'll have a $0 factored into that equation for each year you're missing an income. The result? A lower benefit.

Smiling older man at table with laptop and mug of coffee

Image source: Getty Images.

If you're looking for a more generous benefit, be sure to work a full 35 years. That means you may not be able to retire early, or you may need to work a bit longer than your peers if you took time out of the workforce earlier on in life. But if you know you'll rely heavily on Social Security in retirement, it's a sacrifice worth making.

2. Delay your filing as long as possible

Once you reach full retirement age (FRA), you can claim the full monthly Social Security benefit you're entitled to based on your wage history. You can consult this table to see what your FRA looks like:

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.

That said, you don't have to claim Social Security once you reach FRA. In fact, you'll get the option to delay your filing, and for each year you do, your benefits will increase by 8% -- on a permanent basis.

Now, you can't just grow your Social Security benefits forever. Once you turn 70, you'll stop accumulating the credits that give your benefits that glorious boost. But what this means is that if you're looking at an FRA of 67 and you postpone your filing until age 70, you'll grow your benefits by 24%.

So let's assume you're entitled to $1,543 a month like the average senior today. If you manage to boost that benefit by 24%, you'll be looking at $1,913 instead. That's an extra $370 a month -- money that could help cover your basic expenses or give you the leeway to spend more time doing things you enjoy as a senior.

Get schooled on Social Security

Working a full 35 years and delaying your filing are only two of many strategies you can employ to walk away with a higher Social Security benefit. It pays to learn more about how Social Security works, because the more digging you do, the more opportunities you'll have to grow your benefits -- and buy yourself a nice dose of added financial security throughout your retirement.

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