For many Americans, Social Security provides a base of income protection in retirement planning. But did you know there are ways that you can maximize the amount that you'll receive? Depending on your situation, you might consider the following five ways to optimize your Social Security benefits:
- Wait until your full retirement age
Although you can begin receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62, that doesn't mean you should. To get the full payout you are entitled to, you'll need to wait to claim benefits at your full retirement age. For many, the question of when to take social security can be determined based on which generation you belong to. For many baby boomers, that magic number is age 66, and age 67 for people who were born in 1960 or later. Signing up for benefits before your full retirement age will reduce your monthly benefits. So if you're able to do so, try and use your savings (between the ages of 62 and 66) to supplement your income while delaying benefits.
- Filing for Social Security at age 70
If you have the resources, try to delay claiming your benefits until age 70. Yes, that's a stretch, but after you've reached full retirement age, your monthly payments will increase by 8 percent for each year you delay claiming up until age 70 for those who were born in 1943 or later. After you turn 70, there is no additional benefit to further delaying claiming.
- Work longer before filing for Social Security
Your Social Security payments are calculated based on your lifetime earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most.1 So if you've worked less than 35 years, try to work enough to get at least 35 years with earnings to increase your benefits. Also, if in your highest 35 years of earnings you had some low income years, you might consider working longer to replace old low earning years with higher earning years. Working longer also provides the extra funds to pay off debt and save even more for your retirement.
- Claim Social Security spousal benefits
Married couples are eligible to claim benefits based either on their own work record or up to 50 percent of the higher earner's benefit - whichever is greater. However, spousal benefits are reduced if you claim them before your full retirement age. You can increase this benefit by waiting at least until you have reached full retirement age.
- Watch what you earn when working after retirement
If you want to work part-time to supplement your income during retirement while at the same time collecting Social Security, your benefit may be temporarily withheld if you earn too much. If you are younger than full retirement age and make more than the yearly earnings limit, your earnings may reduce your benefit amount. The good news is that beginning with the month you reach full retirement age, your earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn.
Make sure you've learned about Social Security facts and all the options for taking your Social Security before you make a decision about your benefits. For more information, consult with your financial adviser about the best choice for you.