Although many Americans don’t trust of Social Security system, it remains an integral part of millions of retirement plans. Perhaps you’ve already begun collecting on your Social Security, or perhaps you’re still years away from retirement. Either way, you’re probably trying to figure out whether your benefits will be enough for you.
Luckily, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has created several routes for retirees to increase their Social Security checks, even after you’re already retired.
By doing the research and advocating for the benefits you are entitled to, you could end up receiving much more than the default monthly benefit.
Let’s look a little closer at several ways to increase Social Security benefits after you retire!
Consider Partial Retirement
You might be surprised to discover that there are quite a few retired people who actually continue to work!
Let’s say you retired 5 years before your full retirement age. You’re enjoying your life and your freedom, but wish you had more wiggle room in your budget.
A potential solution is to take on some part-time work to help support your lifestyle. By doing so, you reduce the amount of money you need from Social Security, so you can request to get your benefits at a reduced rate.
Pay attention so you don’t earn too much since you’re not yet at full retirement age. If you make above a certain threshold, you could incur penalties, so find out what your limits are.
Earning a part-time income in early retirement is a great option because you can make your Social Security benefits last even longer. The less you receive in payments now, the more you keep for your later years.
Plus, find work you enjoy, and that can add a fun element to your retirement.
Be Strategic with Spousal Benefits
When it comes to Social Security benefits, there are ways to increase your overall earnings if you and your spouse are strategic.
If you are married, plan on devising a plan between you and your spouse for claiming your benefits. Current guidelines from the SSA state that a spouse’s benefits are the greater of what they have earned with their own work history or 50% of the higher-earning spouse’s benefits.
These are the kind of benefits that you must advocate for and do the math on ahead of time. Let’s say your spouse did in fact earn a much higher benefit than you, by taking 50% of their earning amount, you could be adding hundreds of dollars to your monthly check.
Withdraw Your Application
Some people, in a hurry to reach retirement, claim their Social Security benefits early before their full retirement age. Even though there may be good reasons to do this, this decision can often lead to regret.
Maybe your benefit check isn’t as high as you’d like, and you’re starting to worry about how you’ll make ends meet throughout retirement. That’s pretty stressful!
There are huge advantages to waiting until full retirement age to begin drawing on Social Security. The primary one is that your payments will be higher if you wait than if you start taking benefits early. Patience pays off.
For example, a retiree who can wait until their “full” retirement age of 67, rather than claiming Social Security at age 62, would enjoy 30% higher benefits! That’s a significant chunk of money!
The good news is that if you’ve retired a few years early, you have a 12-month window of time to withdraw your application. You’ll have to pay back all the benefits you’ve received thus far, but then you can be assured of a higher Social Security payout once you reach your full retirement age!
You’ll need a backup plan for income in the meantime, but withdrawal of your application is a way to press “reset” on your retirement plans.
Suspend Your Benefits if Possible
For those of you who are past the 12-month period where cancellation of benefits is allowed, there’s one more option for increasing your check. As soon as you reach your full retirement age, you’re allowed to voluntarily suspend benefits until as late as age 70.
Suspension of benefits means you’ll stop getting any benefits from Social Security temporarily. The big perk: your retirement benefits earn delayed retirement credits, adding 8% to your benefit for each year you delay past full retirement age.
Whenever you decide to resume benefits, just notify Social Security. You can do this anytime but be aware that the latest you’ll have to start receiving benefits is at age 70.
By voluntarily suspending your benefits for a few years, you’ll gain additional funds to increase your Social Security check from age 70 and onward.
The Social Security Office Isn’t Always Correct
It is not a fun fact but a fact, nonetheless.
You must know what you are owed and be your own best advocate. If you consider the massive number of beneficiaries the Social Security Administration is responsible for, you can decipher that there could be some room for error.
As we’ve established, the Social Security system as a whole is confusing. The SSA has over 60,000 employees and though many of them likely know the ropes, there are thousands that jump into the job with very minimal training.
Even if one employee were to learn and memorize all the rules and regulations, these change so frequently that you can never be sure they know it all.
With that said, mistakes get made. The worst part of it all, nearly all Social Security claims are set in stone once determined. This means, if you are talking to someone at the SSA that has inaccurate information and helps you file for benefits, that error is likely permanent.
To get the most out of your benefits, know before you go. Do as much research as you can on your own to determine what your benefits should be and take that information with you.
Additionally, triple check every line of information before making an official filing.
Social Security can be one of those things that just “happens” when you retire, or you can take the reigns and make sure you get the most out of what you’ve worked for.
Though doing research on Social Security benefits is not fun for most people, it will certainly be worth it in the long run.
Social Security benefits don’t have to be a static number after you retire. These useful strategies can help retirees get more from their Social Security checks. There are several ways to increase social security benefits even after you retire, giving you greater freedom during your golden years to enjoy life.
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