Social Security retirement benefits are often a crucial part of retirement income. For some people, Social Security is the only source of income. This means that getting the most out of Social Security can make a big difference in your quality of life after retirement. Fortunately, there are ways to substantially increase the benefits you’ll get even late in life.
Your Retirement Benefits
The key to increasing your Social benefits late in life is choosing the right time to start receiving them. You are eligible to receive full retirement benefits when you turn 66 years old. If you were born after 1954, the full retirement age will gradually increase until it reaches 67 for people born in 1960 and later years. If you choose to start benefits at an earlier or later age, they will be adjusted accordingly. You are eligible to start Medicare benefits at age 65. You can start Medicare even if you defer starting retirement benefits. Doing so will not affect the size of your benefits
When you start receiving Social Security benefits anytime during the year you are 66, you get the full amount. When you defer starting benefits until you are at least one year older, the Social Security Administration increases the amount of your retirement benefit by a stated percentage for each year you wait, up to a maximum of three years.
If you wait at least one year after you turn 66 to start Social Security benefits, your benefit amount will be increased by 8 percent if you were born in 1943 or a later year. For people born earlier, the percentage increase is smaller. When you wait another year, you get another 8 percent and the same if you wait three years. This means you can increase your full benefit amount up to 24 percent by deferring benefits for three years. Suppose your full retirement benefit is $1,200 per month. If you wait three years, 24 percent, or $288, will be added. This increases your monthly benefit to $1,488.
What to Avoid
If you are concerned about the amount you will receive in Social Security benefits, starting your benefits early might not be a good choice. You can start benefits the day you turn 62. However, your benefit amount is permanently reduced a little for each month you start benefits prior to turning 66. If you start benefits when you turn 62, the total reduction comes to 25 percent. This means that if your full benefit amount is $1,200, you will get only $900 per month.
You also can increase your benefits by increasing your income. For example, you might start a part-time business or work a second job. As long as your earnings subject to Social Security tax are less than the income cap, additional income adds to your lifetime earnings and increases the size of your benefit. Social Security benefits are calculated using your 35 best-earning working years. If you did not work 35 years, the missing years are counted as zero. Continuing to work until your employment history reaches 35 years can substantially increase your benefit amount. Finally, you may be eligible to claim spousal benefits. In some cases, you will receive more money with spousal benefits than by relying on your own.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.