Once a person retires and stops receiving regular income, Social Security is intended to be a lifeline, helping them during retirement. The program, designed to replace roughly 40 percent of one’s income before retirement, is an important lifeline for seniors who are no longer working and need a recurring source of funds. Also, Social Security is one of the most popular programs run by the United States government, although its price tag—roughly one-quarter of the government’s annual budget—has caused fiscal conservatives to seek to trim it.
Because of the importance of the payouts, one should always try to secure the largest possible payout. There are a few different ways that this can be achieved; these are three of the simplest.
Wait Until Age Seventy To Claim Benefits
Most people begin to receive their Social Security benefits at “full retirement age” (FRA)—an age between sixty-six and sixty-seven, depending on a person’s birth year. The benefits can be claimed as early as age sixty-two, but financial planners will usually strongly discourage this because accepting the benefits early can lead to a decrease of up to thirty percent.
On the other hand, waiting to claim benefits until seventy, the last possible cut-off age, is highly recommended. If benefits are claimed at seventy instead of sixty-seven, they instead increase by up to thirty percent—making this a no-brainer way to earn a great deal of extra money throughout your retirement. On the other hand, it means missing out on early payments, which many people cannot afford to do.
Work For Thirty-Five Years or Longer
A person’s Social Security benefits are based on their income during the thirty-five highest-paid years of their life. That income level translates to a set standard benefit level that a person earns. If a person claims their benefits at FRA, rather than filing for them early or waiting until a higher age, this is what they would earn before any penalties or credits.
Of course, if a person works more than thirty-five years, only the thirty-five highest-earning years are included—meaning the longer you work, the more lower-paying years are excluded from the final calculation.
See if You Qualify For Other Benefits
Providing Social Security for retired Americans is the largest function of the Social Security Administration, but it is not the only one. The agency also gives out disability benefits, spousal benefits, and survivors’ benefits. Many people who are eligible for these benefits do not receive them because they go unclaimed. It is advisable for all Americans near retirement age to do research and determine what they qualify for.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for The National Interest.