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3 Surefire Ways to Grow Your Social Security Paycheck

By Maurie Backman - May 29, 2021 at 5:18AM

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Want more money out of Social Security? These easy moves could be your ticket.

You'll probably rely on Social Security to at least help cover your senior living expenses. To that end, it pays to lock in the highest monthly benefit you can. Here are three easy ways to pull that off.

1. Boost your earnings with a side job

Some people assume that Social Security benefits are universal, and all seniors collect the same amount every month. But actually, your monthly benefit will be based on the amount of money you earned during your 35 highest-paid years in the labor force. And if you want to secure a higher benefit during retirement, the answer is simple -- boost your earnings.

You can guarantee yourself a jump in earnings by getting a side job on top of your main one, and these days, the gig economy is loaded with opportunities. While things may be a little tighter right now due to the pandemic, in time, they should open up again. Not only will your side income count toward your recorded wages, but it'll also give you more flexibility to fund a retirement savings plan, which will also help you secure more income during your senior years.

Social Security card

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Delay your filing as long as possible

You're entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit based on your earnings history once you reach full retirement age, or FRA. That age is either 66, 67, or somewhere in between, depending on when you were born.

However, you're not required to claim benefits at your precise FRA. You can file sooner -- as early as age 62 -- for a reduced benefit, or you can delay your filing past FRA and give your benefits an 8% increase for each year you do. Any boost you snag for your benefits will remain in effect throughout your retirement.

3. Correct errors on your yearly earnings statements

Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) puts together an earnings statement that summarizes your annual wages and estimates your future retirement benefit. But if the information on that statement is wrong, it could cause you to get stuck with a lower benefit than you're entitled to.

Say you earned $110,000 last year but switched employers midway through, and one of your employers failed to report your income. You may, in that case, wind up with just $60,000 of income on file for the year when in reality, you took in a lot more. That's why it's crucial to review your earnings statement each year. Correcting errors that work against you could result in a higher retirement benefit.

If you're 60 or older, you'll get your earnings statement in the mail automatically. Otherwise, you can access yours through the SSA's website.

Snag that higher benefit

The money you save for retirement in an IRA or 401(k) plan could run out on you during your senior years. Social Security, on the other hand, is guaranteed to pay you a monthly benefit for life, so the higher a paycheck you score, the more financial security you'll buy yourself, no matter how long your retirement lasts.

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