The amount of your Social Security payments depends on your earnings history and the age you sign up for benefits. Follow these steps to make sure you will receive the maximum possible Social Security payments.
Social Security benefits are calculated based on the 35 years in which you earn the most. If you don't work for at least 35 years, zeros are factored into the calculation, which decreases your payout.
Increasing your income by asking for a raise or earning income from a side job will increase the amount you receive from Social Security in retirement. Earnings of up to $128,700 in 2018 are used to calculate your retirement payments.
You need to wait to claim Social Security until at least your full retirement age (which is 66 or 67 for most current workers) to get your full payments. Monthly payments are permanently reduced for people who sign up for Social Security before their full retirement age. Waiting longer can provide you up to 32% more each year for the rest of your life.
After your full retirement age, payments will increase by about 8 percent for each year you delay claiming Social Security up until age 70. After age 70 there is no additional benefit for waiting to sign up for Social Security.
Spouses may claim benefits based on their own work record or up to 50 percent of the higher earner’s benefit, whichever is higher. If you were married for at least 10 years, you can also claim Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse’s work record.
If you have dependent children under age 19, you may be able to secure additional Social Security payments for them worth up to one half of your full retirement benefit to certain annual limits.
Social Security beneficiaries under their full retirement age who earn more than $17,040 in 2018 will have $1 withheld for every $2 they earn above the limit. The year you turn your full retirement age the earnings limit jumps to $45,360, and the penalty decreases to $1 withheld for every $3 earned above the limit.
If the sum of your adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest and half of your Social Security benefit is more than $25,000 for individuals and $32,000 for couples, up to 50 percent of your Social Security benefit could be taxable. If these income sources top $34,000 ($44,000 for couples), income tax could be due on as much as 85 percent of your Social Security benefit.
When one member of a married couples dies, the surviving spouse can inherit the deceased spouse’s benefit payment, if it’s more than his or her current benefit. Retirees can boost the amount the surviving spouse will receive by delaying claiming Social Security.
Create a My Social Security account and download your Social Security statement annually to check that your earnings history and Social Security taxes paid have been recorded correctly by the Social Security Administration. Make sure you are getting credit for the taxes you're paying into the system.