Once you stop working, your income likely comes from savings, investments and retirement benefits. As a result, it can help to understand how to potentially increase Social Security benefits after retirement. The choices you make could affect your retirement income for the rest of your life.
Key Social Security Ages
Your Social Security retirement benefit depends on several factors. These include your earnings during your working years and the timing of your claim. Here are the common scenarios and retirement age milestones:
Claiming early: Most people can claim retirement income benefits as early as age 62, but the Social Security Administration reduces your payment if you claim before your full retirement age. (Your full retirement age will depend on the year you were born.)
If you claim early, your benefits will be reduced based on how long you receive benefits before your full retirement age. For instance, receiving benefits at age 62 may cause your benefit to be reduced by 25 to 30 percent, depending on when you were born.
If you continue to work after claiming benefits early, you may receive less than your full benefit if you earn too much (until you reach full retirement age).
Claiming at your full retirement age: This ensures that you receive your full retirement benefit. You can also earn income without reducing your retirement benefit.
Waiting to claim: Postponing your benefits could result in a higher benefit amount. If you're wondering how to increase Social Security benefits after reaching full retirement age, this is one possible way. Those with a full retirement age of 66 could increase benefits by 8 percent for each full year they delay retirement benefits, but the increase ends once you reach age 70. You could potentially receive 132 percent of your full retirement benefit by waiting until age 70 to receive benefits.
What Happens if You Keep Working?
If you claim Social Security early and keep working, you may reduce your benefits if you earn too much. But it could make sense to continue to earn income — especially after you reach full retirement age.
Working can help increase Social Security benefits if you add high-earning years to your Social Security record. You might be able to replace some of your lowest earning years and get a higher benefit calculation. (Social Security calculates benefits from your highest 35 years of income, and you may be able to bump lower numbers off the list.)
If you earn income, you may not need to withdraw as much from your retirement savings. As a result, you could preserve these assets and draw on them later, potentially extending the life of your portfolio.
Factors to Consider
Longevity: The decision of when to start receiving your Social Security benefits depends, in part, on your health. With a long life expectancy, it may make sense to delay claiming. But with a shorter timeline, claiming early could be better.
Spousal benefit: If you have a spouse who might take Social Security based on your retirement benefit, consider making choices with them in mind. Claiming early could permanently limit the amount available to them if they file on your record.
Assets available: If you're unable to work, you may need to rely on your savings. If you have significant assets in savings, you might have options. But with limited assets, waiting to take Social Security could make a dent in what you've saved.
Cost-of-living adjustments: Social Security payments can change with inflation. If that happens, your payments typically increase by a percentage specified by the Social Security Administration. If you have a larger retirement benefit (because you delayed claiming, for example), the increase will be a larger dollar amount, and those increases may potentially continue in future years.
Should You Claim Now or Wait?
The decision of when to take Social Security benefits is a personal one, and it depends on numerous factors. Nobody is exactly like you, so you'll likely need to review your circumstances, along with the pros and cons of each choice. With the right Social Security choices, you (and your family members) may be able to preserve your assets and live comfortably in retirement.