Since inflation has come back onto the global stage, getting the most out of Social Security is going to be especially important for those in and approaching retirement. Upcoming changes to Social Security stand to be some of the most impactful in years, and you're more likely to see a higher check if you clearly understand how the game works. 

Here are three key changes to Social Security, all of which you might find surprising. 

1. The 2023 COLA will surge to 8.7%

The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for 2023 will be 8.7%, the largest adjustment since 1981 (when retirees saw an 11.2% increase in benefits). This comes as no surprise given inflation's recent spike and continued persistence. 

In other words, next year's monthly checks will rise 8.7% relative to this year's checks, which will in theory help retirees keep pace with a rapidly increasing cost of living. For those who haven't yet claimed benefits, the value of deferral has also increased. 

Since Social Security can be viewed as a minimum guaranteed spending floor in retirement, locking in higher monthly checks is going to be a priority for those retiring in the coming years.

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2. The wage base will increase to $160,200

The maximum taxable wage base is exactly as described: You'll pay a 6.2% Social Security tax on all earnings up to $160,200 in 2023, an increase from $147,000 in 2022. This is unlike the 1.45% Medicare tax that's levied on all earnings -- with no maximum earnings level or phase-out threshold. 

To earn the highest Social Security payout in retirement, you'll need to earn at least the maximum taxable wage base in your 35 highest-earning years. This is not an easy goal by any means, but it is possible for a small percentage of the workforce.

3. You can earn more in retirement before full retirement age without giving back some benefits

The reality amid a challenging inflationary environment is that many people may opt to work longer and defer Social Security for as long as possible. Alternatively, it might be a good idea to at least supplement your Social Security checks with freelance or part-time income. 

Workers younger than full retirement age (FRA) in 2023 will be able to earn up to $21,240 without having their benefits docked. Every $2 earned over the limit will reduce your annual amount by $1, so you'll need to be judicious about earning money if you want to keep your entire Social Security benefit.

Delaying Social Security to lock in additional benefits -- while also considering some form of paid work -- can help ease the financial stress that comes with retiring into a down market. 

Know the basic changes

If you know the basic adjustments to the Social Security program, you'll be more informed and more prepared as it relates to your own retirement planning. Retiring amid the current economic environment can be stressful, and getting the most out of Social Security is as important as ever.

Staying up to date with changes to Social Security is a common-sense and low-cost way to lock in higher checks down the line, so be sure to stay attuned to new announcements and how they might impact you.