Maximizing the Social Security benefit in retirement is easier said than done.
In 2023, the highest amount a retiree can receive under the program is $54,660 a year. That’s $4,555 in monthly payments.
There are several prerequisites to gaining the best possible payout. Here’s what it takes.
Age and career length
Your age and the length of your career are a factor in determining your Social Security benefit. To achieve the maximum monthly payout, you need to have made sufficient contributions to the program over time via payroll tax.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates your benefits based on your 35 highest years of earnings. Earnings are indexed to account for changes in wage levels. If your career is shorter than 35 years, you will fall short of maximum eligibility.
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Age is another factor. For example, if you were born in 1960 or later and begin claiming Social Security at age 62, the earliest age of eligibility, your benefit would be 30% lower than if you retired at 67, the full retirement age. However, the benefit increases by a certain percentage each month you delay accepting it beyond full retirement age up until age 70.
Just a few extra years of working can make a big difference.
Social Security is funded through a federal payroll tax, which requires you to pay 6.2% of your wages. Your employer is required to separately pay the same percentage on the same earnings. If you’re self-employed, you need to cover both sides and pay 12.4%.
These tax requirements only apply to a limited portion of annual earnings, known as the benefit base, which is periodically adjusted according to overall wage changes throughout the U.S. workforce. The benefit base currently sits at $160,200.
This six-digit figure is the key reason why maximizing Social Security benefits is so difficult. To hit the full amount of monthly payments, you need to earn the benefit base or more for 35 years and retire at the age of 70. In other words, you need to be a high-income earner for the vast majority of your career.
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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.