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Make These Moves in Your 50s to Boost Your Social Security Benefits

By Maurie Backman – Jun 19, 2021 at 5:36AM

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Play your cards right during your 50s, and you'll set the stage for higher benefits later in life.

Even if you manage to retire with a substantial amount of money in retirement savings, you'll still most likely rely on Social Security to some degree. Maybe those benefits won't be the only income source you use to pay your bills, but they might enable you to travel or pursue other hobbies you hope to enjoy as a senior.

Now you'll often hear that to get the most out of Social Security you'll need to claim benefits at the right time, as there are benefits and drawbacks to filing at different ages. But while the decision to claim Social Security is one you may not make until you reach your 60s, there are plenty of steps you can take as early as your 50s to get more money out of the program. Here are three key moves worth making.

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1. Fight for raises

The monthly Social Security benefit you're entitled to during retirement will be based on your wages during your 35 highest-paid years in the workforce, and so if you're able to boost your income, you stand to collect more money as a senior.

Of course, your boss isn't going to just hand you extra money for no good reason. Instead, you may need to fight for those raises by seeking out promotions, growing your job skills, and taking on projects your colleagues would rather avoid. But it's worth making that effort, because a series of raises could not only improve your finances while you're working, but also lead to a higher Social Security benefit once you're ready to claim it.

2. Work a second job

You may only have so much wiggle room to earn more at your primary job, but that doesn't mean you can't boost your total earnings with a second job.

As long as you pay Social Security taxes on those wages they count toward calculating your retirement benefit. It doesn't matter that those earnings are coming from another company or source.

Incidentally, getting a second job could not only boost your Social Security income, but also help you ramp up your retirement plan contributions. Once you turn 50, you're eligible to make catch-up contributions in both an IRA and 401(k) plan, and having that extra money at your disposal may enable you to take advantage of that option.

3. Check your earnings statements for errors

Each year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issues an earnings statement summarizing your income for the year and estimating your eventual Social Security benefit. It's important to read through that information carefully, because if there's an error that works against you, it could lead to a lower benefit during retirement.

Imagine you earn $80,000 in a given year, and by some fluke you're listed as having earned $0 in wages that year. That's a mistake that could leave you with a lower monthly benefit down the line, and it's the sort of thing you'll want to correct.

If you're 60 or over, you'll get your yearly earnings statement in the mail. If you're younger, you'll need to create an account on the Social Security Administration's website and access it there.

Your 50s are a good time to start seriously thinking about retirement, and that also means setting yourself up to eke as much money out of Social Security as possible. These moves could set the stage for a more generous monthly benefit, and that, in turn, could be your ticket to the retirement you've always imagined.

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