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Social Security benefits make up a big part of a majority of seniors’ incomes. In fact, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA),
64 percent of “aged beneficiaries” received at least half of their income from Social Security in 2013. Whether you’re still decades away from joining these retirees or have already collected your final paycheck, here are a few ways to increase those benefits.

  1. Put in at least 35 years.

Your 35 highest-earning years are factored into the equation that the SSA uses to calculate your Social Security benefits. But because you only need 40 credits to qualify, and you can earn up to four annually, you don’t have to actually work 35 years—unless you want to maximize your Social Security benefits. Work fewer years and a corresponding number of zeros will be factored into the calculation, thus decreasing your benefit payout.

  1. Stay on the job until you reach full retirement age.

If you were born between 1943 and 1954, you need to work until you’re 66 years old to collect full Social Security benefits. For those born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67. You’ll become eligible to start drawing on Social Security earlier, but should you do so, your monthly benefit payment will be permanently reduced.

  1. Claim spousal benefits instead.

If your husband or wife earned a higher salary than you did while employed, the benefits you can collect as a spouse may be higher than those the SSA will pay you based on your own work record.  Ask your financial advisor for advice before you file.

  1. Keep an eye on earnings from post-retirement jobs.

According to a survey conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 51 percent of currently working Americans plan to keep working—at least part time—in retirement. However, if you earn too much from a post-retirement job, the SSA will reduce your benefit accordingly. Talk to your financial advisor about Social Security earning limits and how they may affect your future plans.

  1. Keep your Social Security taxes low.

If your only source of income post-retirement is your Social Security benefits, it’s unlikely you’ll have to pay taxes on them. However, if investment income and nontaxable interest plus half of your Social Security benefits are more than $25,000 (individual) or $32,000 (couples), the government will begin taxing you on up to 50 percent of the benefits paid. Should the total of your retirement income top $34,000 (individual) or $44,000 (couples), you could be taxed on up to 85 percent of your Social Security benefit payments. Talk to your financial advisor about retirement income strategies to minimize potential taxes.

  1. Check your Social Security statement.

Regardless of how far away you may be from retirement, you should check your Social Security statement each year to make sure the SSA has recorded your earnings history and Social Security taxes paid correctly. It’s easy to do this online. Just visit and create an account. You can then log in to review your Social Security statement that includes estimates of future benefits as well as your earnings and SSA taxes paid.

Have questions? If you’d like to learn more about these suggestions and the role Social Security can play in retirement, contact us for financial planning assistance today.


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