The great thing about Social Security is that it's designed to pay you for life. If the value of your retirement plan fluctuates based on market conditions, you may have a year where you're forced to take smaller withdrawals. But if you qualify for, say, a $2,000 monthly Social Security benefit, that's the amount you'll get every month. In fact, you may get even more once you account for annual cost-of-living adjustments.
Now one thing you should know is that the moves you make during and after your time in the workforce could impact the amount of money you collect from Social Security. Here are three things you can do to snag more cash every month.
1. Delay your filing as long as you can
You're entitled to your monthly Social Security benefit, based on your earnings history, once you reach full retirement age, or FRA. FRA kicks in at 66, 67, or 66 and a certain number of months -- it all depends on the year you were born. However, you're allowed to delay your filing beyond FRA, and doing so could be quite rewarding.
For each month you hold off on claiming benefits, they'll increase by 2/3 of 1%, or by 8% a year. Now once you turn 70, you can't grow your benefits any more. But if your FRA is 67 and you wait until 70 to file, you'll get a 24% boost to your benefits that will remain in effect for the rest of your life.
2. Extend your career if you're earning a lot later in life
A lot of people see their wages increase as they gain experience and climb the ranks within their fields. It may be the case that by the time your mid- or late 60s arrive, you're earning a lot more than you did earlier on in your career. And if so, working a few extra years could give your Social Security benefits a nice boost.
Your benefits are based on your earnings during your 35 highest-paid years in the workforce. If you can replace some lower-earning years with higher earnings, your benefits will go up.
3. Don't earn too much if you're working and collecting benefits simultaneously
The Social Security Administration will allow you to work and receive benefits at the same time. But if you do so before reaching FRA, you may be disappointed in the amount it pays you.
If you earn more than $18,960 this year, you'll have $1 in Social Security withheld per $2 above that limit. There's an exception, however, if you'll be reaching FRA this year. If so, you can earn up to $50,520 without having it affect your benefits, and from there, you'll have $1 in Social Security withheld per $3 above that limit.
Now to be clear, once you reach FRA, you can earn as much as you'd like without impacting your benefits whatsoever. But if you want a higher Social Security check, you're not close to FRA, and you're working part-time, you may want to make sure to keep your earnings to $18,960 or below.
Understanding the ins and outs of Social Security could help you snag more money from it. It pays to read up on how Social Security works to score the highest benefit possible.