Social Security benefits can make or break retirement for millions of seniors. Around 85% of current retirees rely on their monthly checks to some degree, according to a 2022 survey by The Motley Fool, with 40% saying they depend on Social Security "completely" in retirement.

If your benefits are going to make up a significant portion of your retirement income, it's wise to make the most of them. Fortunately, there's a simple way to increase your monthly payments by 24% for the rest of your life. Here's how.

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How your age affects your benefit

There are many factors that determine the size of your checks, but one of the most significant is the age at which you begin claiming.

You can file for Social Security anytime after age 62, but the earlier you claim, the smaller each payment will be. To receive your full benefit amount based on your work record, you'll need to wait until your full retirement age (FRA) -- which is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later.

If you have an FRA of 67 and file at 62, your benefit will be reduced by 30%. On the other hand, if you wait until age 70 to begin claiming (after 70, waiting to claim produces no extra benefit), you'll collect your full monthly benefit plus an extra 24%.

These adjustments are permanent, too, meaning if you file early, you won't see a benefit increase once you reach your FRA. But it can work in your favor if you delay claiming, because you'll collect larger checks every month for the rest of your life.

Is delaying Social Security right for you?

There's not necessarily a right or wrong answer about when you should file for benefits. But perhaps the best reason to consider holding off on Social Security is to boost your monthly income.

The average retiree collects around $1,800 per month in benefits, according to the most recent data from the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you collect that amount at an FRA of 67, waiting until 70 would result in an extra $432 per month ($5,184 per year). If you're strapped for cash in retirement, that can go a long way.

Delaying benefits can also be smart if you expect to live a longer-than-average life. In theory, you should collect the same amount in total from Social Security no matter when you claim. File early, and you'll receive smaller payments but more of them over a lifetime. Delay benefits, and you'll collect fewer checks, but each one will be larger.

However, these calculations assume you'll live an average lifespan, as determined by the SSA. If you end up living much longer than that, you could collect substantially more over a lifetime by delaying Social Security. Not to mention that if your savings run dry later in life, larger checks can make it easier to make ends meet.

Delaying Social Security can make financial sense for many retirees, particularly if their savings fall short. The extra 24% boost can add up to hundreds of dollars per month, helping you enjoy your senior years more comfortably.