The Social Security benefits system is more complicated than you would think, so there's a good chance you'll end up making mistakes that affect the amount of income that comes from your retirement benefits. In fact, there are three big errors you could be making right now that might result in big financial problems for you later.

To make sure you don't end up struggling as a senior due to Social Security problems, be sure to avoid these three common mistakes you may not even realize you're making. 

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1. Failing to keep tabs on your earnings history

When you apply for Social Security benefits, the amount of money you will be eligible for is based in large part on your earnings over the course of your career. Specifically, the Social Security Administration adjusts wages earned over time to account for wage growth, then calculates your average monthly wage using data from the 35 years when you earned the most. Your benefits then equal a percentage of these average monthly earnings. 

You should be checking your earnings record regularly throughout your career to make sure that all the income you paid Social Security tax on is reported correctly. Not doing so is a mistake, because it's easier to correct errors shortly after they are made, rather than decades later when paperwork may have been lost that proves how much you earned. You can sign into mySocialSecurity each year to check this record and contact Social Security to take action if there's a problem. 

2. Making unrealistic plans for when you'll claim benefits

Many people plan to wait as long as possible to claim Social Security, even anticipating they will wait until age 70. This seems like a good strategy because the longer you wait to get your first check after becoming eligible for it at 62, the higher your monthly payment will be up until age 70, when payments can't increase any more.

The problem is, things may not work out as anticipated. If your health or family demands prevent you from continuing to work or if you can't find an adequate job later in life, you may be forced into early retirement and need to rely on Social Security as one of your income sources earlier than planned.

If you end up having to claim benefits ahead of your desired schedule, you'll get stuck with smaller monthly payments that could wreak havoc on your retirement budget. Don't make the mistake of assuming everything will go perfectly and you'll be able to wait. Base your retirement plan around the assumption you'll claim Social Security at a young age, and then if you're able to wait longer, just consider the extra monthly income a bonus. 

3. Assuming Social Security will provide more income than it will

The last major mistake many people make is assuming Social Security is going to do much more for them than it actually will.

Your retirement benefits are meant to be one of several sources of financial support in your senior years, along with your savings and potentially a pension from an employer. They cannot be your sole source of support. 

Since Social Security is intended to work in conjunction with other income sources, benefits only replace about 40% of pre-retirement income. This clearly isn't enough for most people, so it's best to make sure you understand what your likely benefit amount is. Then you can make a plan to save enough to supplement those funds and provide the comfortable life you deserve as a retiree.