Many retirees will rely on their monthly Social Security checks for a significant portion of their income, so it's wise to make sure you're getting the most from them. While the average benefit among retirees is around $1,670 per month, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the maximum you can receive in 2022 is $4,194 per month.
There are a few requirements you would need to meet to collect that amount, however, and your salary plays a major role in the size of your monthly checks.
How your earnings affect your benefits
There are several factors that will influence the amount you receive in Social Security benefits each month, including the length of your career, the age you begin claiming, and your salary.
To receive as much as possible, you'll first need to work at least 35 years before you begin claiming. The SSA calculates your benefit based on the 35 highest-earning years of your career. If you work fewer years than that, you'll receive smaller checks.
Second, to maximize your benefit, you need to delay collecting it until age 70. You can file as early as age 62, but that will result in a permanent reduction. By claiming at 70, you'll receive your full amount plus up to 32% extra each month.
Lastly, you'll need to reach the maximum taxable earnings limit each year for 35 years. This is the highest income subject to Social Security taxes, so hitting this limit consistently throughout your career will earn the largest amount possible. It changes slightly each year to account for inflation, but as of 2022, it's $147,000 a year.
What if you're falling short of the max benefit?
In reality, very few retirees will meet all the requirements to receive the maximum $4,194 in monthly payments. But that doesn't mean you can't increase your benefit.
If you're not earning a salary of at least $147,000, as long as you can increase your income even slightly, it will still result in larger checks each month.
Similarly, maybe you can't wait until 70 to begin claiming benefits (or choose not to). But if you can wait beyond 62, that could still boost your monthly payments by hundreds of dollars.
Even if you prefer to begin claiming as early as possible, at 62, working for at least 35 years can boost your benefits.
Reaching the maximum benefit is incredibly difficult, but there are still other steps to increase your checks so you can make the most of Social Security and head into retirement as prepared as possible.