Many people rely on their social security checks for financial support during retirement, but most don’t know what they can do before retirement to increase the payments they will receive later. These tips will help you maximize benefits and feel more financially secure after you’re done working.
Understand Social Security
The most important step in maximizing social security benefits is understanding what social security is and how it works. While you work, a percentage of your income is paid by both you and your employer to the government, where it is placed in a social security trust fund. When you reach retirement age and wish to begin collecting these payments, the government calculates your earnings during the period of thirty-five years in which you made the highest wages and send you a percentage of your pre-retirement income. To better understand how social security works, consider taking a seminar or consulting with a professional.
Maximize Pre-Retirement Income
Since the amount of money you receive from the government is based on your income before retirement, it is best to earn as much money as you can for as long as possible. Rather than decreasing your workload as you get older, consider looking for additional sources of income in the final years before retirement to maximize earnings later. Additional part-time jobs, contract jobs, or gig work will go a long way in increasing your total income.
Work for Thirty-Five Years
Working for at least thirty-five years consecutively will increase the wages used to calculate your earnings. If you work less than thirty-five years or have years in which you did not work within those periods, they will count as zeros and decrease the payments you will receive later. Even if you are not earning large sums of money in certain years, trying to find additional streams of income and maximizing earnings will result in a higher dollar amount earned during the thirty-five year period.
Many people file for social security payments and do some work at the same time in an effort to increase their income during retirement. This can be a great way to increase income, but earning above certain thresholds can increase tax costs. Be aware of what income levels will result in higher taxes and weigh the benefits of increased earnings versus the benefits of decreased taxes when making decisions regarding your employment.
Delaying social security benefits beyond the full retirement age will result in an annual return that increases your social security fund. If you are still able to work beyond the full retirement age, delaying benefits by a few years is a great way to increase them.
Some couples are also eligible to delay the benefits of one spouse while collecting the benefits of the other. This spreads benefits over more years while allowing one of your social security funds to accumulate a greater return.
By understanding social security, maximizing pre-retirement income, working for a full and consecutive thirty-five years, avoiding taxes, and delaying benefits, you can increase your social security benefits and live a more comfortable life after retirement.