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3 Lesser-Known Tactics to Boost Your Social Security Benefits

By Maurie Backman – Aug 17, 2021 at 5:04AM

Key Points

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Here's how to set yourself up with a more generous paycheck during retirement.

A lot of seniors rely on Social Security to cover their living expenses. And chances are, you'll turn to those benefits during retirement to help pay for everything from housing to healthcare to leisure and entertainment.

That's why you may be motivated to score as high a monthly benefit as you can. And these three lesser-known tactics could get you there.

1. Get a side job

The Social Security benefit you're entitled to during retirement will depend on how much you earn during your career. Some people focus on pursuing promotions and raises not just to boost their earnings in the near term, but to set themselves up for higher Social Security benefits later in life. But rather than spin your wheels at your main job, you may have an easier time raising your wages via a side job.

Social Security card peeking out from a pile of 20-dollar bills

Image source: Getty Images.

These days, there are a host of gigs you can do in your spare time, whether it's designing websites or driving for a ride-hailing service. The income you earn from those gigs counts as income for Social Security purposes. The only difference is you may have a less stressful time earning money that way than working every waking hour at your main job in the hopes of landing a raise.

2. Work more than 35 years

Your monthly Social Security benefit is based on your 35 highest-paid years in the workforce, so if you don't work a full 35 years, you'll have a $0 factored in for each year you go without an income. Many people push themselves to work for 35 years to avoid those $0s, but another strategy you might employ is to work more than 35 years.

A lot of people find that they're earning more money at the end of their careers compared to the early stages. If that's the case for you, you may not want to wrap up your career once you have 35 years of work under your belt. If you work two more years and replace a couple of years of lower wages with much higher ones, your monthly benefit could get a nice boost.

3. Delay your benefits by a few months

Delaying Social Security until the age of 70 is actually a pretty common tactic for growing benefits. For each year you hold off on filing beyond your full retirement age up until the age of 70, your benefits will grow by 8%.

But waiting until age 70 to collect Social Security isn't easy. And so a better bet may be to simply delay your filing by a few months.

You don't have to hold off on filing for a full year to grow your benefits. If your full retirement age is 67 and you file at 67 and three months, you'll score a 2% boost. That smaller bump may be enough for you to comfortably handle your expenses.

The more money you manage to squeeze out of Social Security, the more financial flexibility you'll enjoy in retirement. These moves could result in a nice boost that helps you make the most of your senior years.

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