The average retiree collects around $1,673 per month from Social Security, which amounts to just over $20,000 per year. However, you could potentially receive more than double that amount.

In 2022, the maximum you can receive in benefits is $4,194 per month, or around $50,328 per year. Earning the max benefit amount isn't easy, but by taking these steps, you can get as close as possible.

Person sitting at a desk and smiling.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Work for at least 35 years

The Social Security Administration calculates your benefit amount by taking an average of your wages over the 35 years of your career during which you earned the most. That number is then adjusted for inflation, and the result is the amount you'll receive if you file at your full retirement age (FRA).

If you begin claiming benefits before you've worked 35 full years, you'll have zeros added to your average to account for the time you weren't working. This will result in a lower benefit amount and prevent you from earning the maximum monthly payments.

2. Delay benefits until age 70

The age at which you begin claiming benefits will have a significant impact on the amount you receive each month. Age 62 is the earliest you can file, but you'll receive reduced payments. To collect the full benefit amount you're entitled to, you'll need to wait to file until your FRA -- which will be somewhere between ages 66 and 67, depending on the year in which you were born.

To collect as much as possible from Social Security, though, you'll have to wait until age 70 to begin claiming. In fact, even if you meet all the other requirements for the maximum benefit amount, if you file at age 62, you'll only receive $2,364 per month. That's $1,830 per month less than you'd collect by claiming at age 70.

3. Consistently reach the maximum taxable earnings limit

The maximum taxable earnings limit is the highest income subject to Social Security taxes. To receive as much as possible from Social Security, you'll need to be consistently reaching this limit throughout your career.

That limit is $147,000 per year in 2022, but it changes each year to account for inflation. If you started your career 35 years ago in 1987, for example, the limit back then was $43,800 per year.

Simpler ways to increase your benefits

In reality, very few workers will be able to achieve all three of these steps to earn the maximum $4,194 per month. That's OK, and making small moves toward any one of these steps can still increase your benefits.

For example, maybe you can't delay benefits until age 70, but you can wait a few years past age 62 to begin claiming. That alone can potentially boost your benefits by hundreds of dollars per month. Or maybe you can't reach the $147,000 per-year earnings limit, but you can increase your income slightly. That, too, will result in larger checks.

You don't necessarily have to earn the maximum benefit amount to enjoy a financially secure retirement. Small steps can make a big difference. Even if you're off track for the $4,194 max benefit, it's still possible to boost your payments by hundreds of dollars per month.