Some people say that they're not counting on Social Security being there when they retire. It's a good idea when planning your retirement expenses to consider any income from the federal program a bonus. However, even in a worst-case scenario, Social Security will still be able to pay most of the scheduled benefits for a long time to come.

It's still smart to think about how to maximize your retirement income, including how much you'll receive from Social Security. Here's the simplest thing you can do to boost your benefits.

Social Security benefits application.

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Put time on your side

The Rolling Stones once sang that "time is on my side." Those lyrics can certainly be true when it comes to Social Security. You can put time on your side by carefully considering when you file for benefits.

Many Americans opt to claim Social Security benefits at age 62. Doing so, however, comes at a steep cost. Your monthly benefit will be roughly 30% lower if you begin receiving Social Security at age 62 than it would be if you waited until the full retirement age of 67. 

If you really want to maximize your Social Security benefit, though, hold off on filing for a few more years. The current maximum monthly benefit for individuals retiring at the full retirement age of 67 is $3,627. But waiting until age 70 increases the maximum to $4,555.

Most people don't actually receive those maximum amounts. However, the longer you wait to file for Social Security (at least until you turn 70), the higher your benefits will be. Delaying puts time on your side.

When waiting isn't the best strategy

Waiting is the simplest approach to boosting your Social Security benefits. However, it's not always the easiest strategy -- and it's not always the best.

Sometimes, waiting until age 70 to file for Social Security benefits isn't an option. You could have to retire early because of health problems or lose your job and be forced to retire early if you can't find another position.

Because of these possibilities, it's wise to be prepared to claim Social Security benefits early, even if you'd prefer not to. This means that you should save as much as possible for retirement well before you're ready to retire.

Could filing for Social Security benefits early even be financially advantageous? In some cases, yes. For example, if you don't expect to live into your 80s, your lifetime benefits could be higher by starting to collect Social Security at age 62 instead of waiting until your full retirement age or age 70.

Other alternatives

There are also other ways to boost your Social Security benefits instead of waiting until your full retirement age or until you're 70 to file. One important move is to make sure that you have at least 35 years of income that counts toward the calculation of your Social Security benefits. For example, if you only have 33 years of earnings at age 62, working another two years before filing will increase the amount you receive.

Another alternative is to make as much money as you can during your working years. If your employer has a higher-paying position open for which you're qualified, go for it. If you can't get a raise from your current employer, look for a job elsewhere that pays more. Granted, this option is easier said than done. But it's worth pursuing.

Ultimately, though, the simplest thing you can do to receive higher Social Security benefits when you retire is to hold off on when you begin collecting those benefits. As the old adage says, "Good things come to those who wait."