Based on Social Security Administration data, the average monthly retirement benefit is $1,669, which equals about $20,000 annually. Since this is an average, many people get less, sometimes a lot less than this. Conversely, those with above-average earnings histories will receive more than $1,669. High earners can receive a maximum amount of $4,194 per month, which amounts to about $50,000 annually.
Here’s how you can receive that monthly $4,194 Social Security check. Even though you may not be able to get there, you might be able to increase your benefits by more than 24%!
Maintain a steady income for at least 35 years
Getting that maximum benefit depends on your earnings in the 35 years you earned the most, and the amount is adjusted for inflation. To be eligible for that $4,194 per month, you must have worked for 35 years.
Maximum Earning Needed
In addition to working for (at least) 35 years, you’ll also need to earn the maximum per year. Each year has a maximum taxable earnings limit and an income level above which you are not taxed for Social Security. As of 2022, that limit is $147,000, but it usually rises yearly.
For a maximum payout, you’d need to earn at least $147,000 in 2022. Additionally, you will need to earn at least much for the remaining 34 years. There is probably already at least one year when your earnings were below the maximum taxable; you are not automatically disqualified by that alone. Every year you work beyond 35, your lowest-earning year is kicked out, leaving only the 35 years in which you earned the most.
Allow your benefits to accrue for a longer time.
Lastly, you will have to wait until age 70 to collect your benefits. We all have a “full retirement age” at which we can start collecting the full benefits to which we’re entitled, and our average retirement age is 66 or 67. Benefits are reduced if you begin collecting at 62; however, you’ll get more checks.
Every year you delay collecting benefits beyond your full retirement age, your benefits will increase by about 8%. For that maximum benefit, you’ll have to earn at least the maximum taxable earnings limit for 35 years and delay collecting benefits until 70. Most of us probably won’t be able to do it.
Social Security benefits can still be increased in other ways.
If you’re currently expecting to receive, say, $2,000 per month in Social Security benefits upon retirement, the strategies above will help you increase it. Getting a promotion, changing to a higher-paying job, and/or taking on side jobs can increase your benefits in the future. Additionally, if you earn more today than you did in the past (on an inflation-adjusted basis), you’ll get rid of three to five years of low earnings.
If you wait until age 70 to collect your benefits, it will boost your checks, maybe even by 24%. While $4,194 may seem out of reach, you may be able to boost your monthly income by hundreds of dollars. Those few extra hundred dollars can make a big difference in the future.