3 Little-Known Ways to Earn Bigger Social Security Checks | Personal finance

(Katie Brockman)

Millions of seniors collect Social Security benefits in retirement, with some relying on their monthly checks for the majority of their income.

Although Social Security was never intended to be your main source of income, it pays to ensure that you receive as much as possible. Your benefits can be significant in retirement, especially if your savings are insufficient.

One of the best ways to increase the size of your checks is to delay applying for Social Security. However, there are a few other less common options that can also help you earn larger monthly payments.

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1. Work at least 35 years

The Social Security Administration calculates your benefit amount by taking an average of your earnings over the 35 highest-earning years of your career. This number is then adjusted for inflation, and the result is the amount you will receive if you start claiming at full retirement age (FRA).

If you have worked under the age of 35 when you apply, zeros will be included in your average to account for the time you have not worked. This will mean lower average earnings and less money in benefits.

Even if you’ve already worked 35 years, working a little longer can be beneficial. Chances are you earn more now than 35 years ago. And because your average is based on your highest-earning years, working an extra year or two when you earn more can get you a higher benefit amount.

2. Take advantage of other types of benefits

Retirement benefits are not the only type of benefits you may be eligible for. In some cases, you may also be eligible for spousal, divorce or survivor benefits.

Spousal and Divorce Benefits allow you to apply based on the work history of your partner or ex-partner. In either case, the maximum you can receive is 50% of the amount your spouse or ex-spouse is entitled to from their FRA.

If you were financially dependent on a deceased loved one, you may also be eligible for survivors’ benefits. Although usually reserved for widows and widowers, survivors’ benefits are also sometimes available to parents, children, divorced spouses and other family members.

3. Contribute to a Roth Account

Your Social Security benefits may be subject to state and federal taxes in retirement. Your state taxes will depend on where you live, while federal taxes will depend on a factor called your provisional income.

Your interim income is half your annual benefit amount, any non-taxable interest, plus your adjusted gross income. If your provisional income is more than $25,000 per year (or $32,000 per year for married couples filing taxes jointly), you will have to pay up to 85% of your benefit amount.

However, withdrawals from Roth accounts – such as a Roth IRA or a Roth 401(k) – do not count against your interim income. If you withdraw a large amount from this type of account, it can potentially reduce your interim income enough to reduce or even eliminate federal taxes, helping you keep more of your benefits.

Your benefits can help provide you with a more comfortable retirement, and it’s wise to make the most of them. With a few creative strategies, you can get every penny out of Social Security.

The $18,984 Social Security premium that most retirees completely overlook

If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help boost your retirement income. For example: an easy trick could earn you up to $18,984 more…every year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we believe you can retire confidently with the peace of mind we all seek. Just click here to find out how to learn more about these strategies.

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