10 Ways You Can Increase Your Social Security Payments

... Plus a bonus tip.

Did you know that April is National Social Security Month? And did you know that there are 67 million Americans receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration?

That’s 1 out of every 6 Americans.

The current average retirement benefit is about $1,400 a month, and if that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider this — without that $1,400 a month, 40 percent of all retirees would be living below the poverty line, and more than half of them are women.

So, let me give you 10 ways — count them, 10 — that you can increase your Social Security payments:

  1. Work for at least 35 years, because the benefits are based on your highest 35 years of pay. If you work for fewer years, zeros get put into that calculation.

  2. Earn more. Earnings up to $132,900 are used to calculate your benefit.

  3. Work until your full retirement age. That’s age 66 or 67 for most of us.

  4. Delay claiming until you're age 70. Every year you delay starting your benefits, your benefit goes up 8 percent a year.

  5. Claim spousal benefits. Your work record might not generate as much income for you as you get as a spouse of a worker. You get whichever one’s higher.

  6. Are you divorced? Make a claim based on your ex-spouse. If you were married for at least 10 years, you can do so, and it doesn’t even affect your ex.

  7. Include family. If you have dependent children under age 19, there are additional Social Security benefits that are eligible for you.

  8. Don’t earn too much in retirement. If you start receiving benefits before your full retirement age and you earn more than about $18,000, $1 will be withheld for every $2 you earn. After that age, you can make up to $47,000 a year, and the benefit decreases to $1 for every $3 you earn.

  9. You also want to minimize your Social Security taxes. If your adjusted gross income and a bunch of other revenue is more than $25,000, up to 50 percent of your benefits could be subject to taxes. If you're married, it’s $32,000. If your income is more than $34,000 — or $44,000 if you're married — tax could be due on up to 85 percent of your Social Security benefit.

  10. Maximize your survivors benefits. You can inherit deceased’s benefits if they’re more than yours.

And here's the bonus.

Make sure your work counts.

Create an account at SSA.gov, ensuring you’re getting credit for the taxes you're paying into the system. By the way, 39 million people have registered at SSA.gov. Jean and I have done so — have you? But less than half have checked their statements in the last 12 months online. Make sure you're getting credit for all the work you're actually doing and all the taxes you're actually paying.

If you have questions about this list — or Social Security benefits in general — give us a call at (888) PLAN-RIC.