Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

3 Popular Ways to Maximize Your Social Security Benefit

By Selena Maranjian – Aug 13, 2021 at 8:30AM

Key Points

  • The size of your Social Security checks is, to a meaningful degree, within your control.
  • It can be worth retiring in your late 60s or at age 70, instead of sooner.
  • Coordinating with your spouse, if you're married, can yield big benefits.

Motley Fool Issues Rare “All In” Buy Alert

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Make your future more financially secure by increasing your Social Security benefit.

If you haven't socked away enough money to live off of in retirement, or you're not on track to do so, the Social Security income you collect in retirement will be especially important to you. Even if you have saved a hefty nest egg, the more income, the better, right? An extra, say, $20,000 or $30,000 per year can mean a much more enjoyable and financially secure future.

Here's a quick look at three effective strategies for boosting your Social Security benefits.

A smiling person holding lots of fanned out $100 bills.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Work longer and earn more

First off, know that the formula used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to determine our benefits is based on our incomes (adjusted for inflation) in the 35 years in which we earned the most. So you should aim, at a minimum, to work 35 years, if possible -- because every year less than that will result in a zero being incorporated into the calculations.

Better still, you might work beyond 35 years -- because if near the end of your career you're earning much more than you did before (on an inflation-adjusted basis), then each year you work beyond 35 years will kick a low-earning year out of the calculations.

Maximizing your income, then, is a very effective way to boost your benefits. You might achieve that by climbing your career ladder aggressively and enjoying frequent big raises, but there are other ways, too. For example, you might take on one or more side gigs, such as tutoring kids, driving for a ride-sharing service, selling crafts you make, and so on.

2. Work longer and delay starting to collect your benefits

Another way to boost your Social Security benefits is to delay starting to collect them. Each of us has a "full retirement age" (FRA) at which we can start collecting the full benefits to which we're entitled based on our earnings history. For most of us, that's age 66 or 67 -- but you can actually start collecting as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.

Starting earlier will make your checks smaller -- though you'll receive more of them, making up potentially much or all of the difference. Delaying will make your checks bigger. The table below shows how much of your full benefits you can expect to collect based on when you start collecting them:

Start Collecting at:

Full Retirement Age of 66 

Full Retirement Age of 67 




























Data source: Social Security Administration.

Two hands on an index card that reads more income.

Image source: Getty Images.

3. Coordinate with your spouse

Finally, if you're married, spend a little time researching Social Security strategies with your spouse -- or consult a financial advisor or planner for some guidance. For example, if you both have similar earnings histories, you might both try to delay collecting until age 70, to maximize your future household income. If one has earned significantly more, though, it's often good to prioritize maximizing that benefit, so if you both need or want to start collecting one spouse's benefits, you might opt for the lower-earner's, to let the higher-earner's benefit grow larger still.

The more you learn about Social Security, the more you may be able to get out of the vital program. It can be the income that supplements what you've saved, enabling you to have the income you'll need in retirement.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 11/28/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.