People are often advised not to depend on Social Security too heavily during retirement. That's because those benefits will only replace a portion of the paycheck you're used to receiving.
But still, there's a good chance you'll rely on Social Security to some degree once your time in the workforce comes to an end and you're no longer collecting a paycheck from your employer. So it's important to sign up for benefits at the right time to ensure that your paydays are as generous as possible.
But you don't have to wait until retirement age to take steps to boost your Social Security income. Here are a few things you can do immediately that could result in more substantial benefits down the line.
1. Boost your income
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The amount of money you receive from Social Security during retirement will hinge on your career wages. If you're able to boost your income, you can set yourself up for a higher monthly benefit later in life.
How do you raise your income? For one thing, you can work on developing skills that make you a more valuable employee. That could easily lead to a raise.
You can also try taking a second job to give your total earnings a boost. Even if you're hired on a freelance basis, as long as you report that income to the IRS (which you have to do), it counts for Social Security purposes.
2. Extend your career
It may be the case that you're nearing the end of your career and are earning more money than you ever did before. If so, you have a prime opportunity to snag a higher Social Security benefit.
If you extend your career by a few years, you can replace a period of lower earnings with higher earnings in the formula Social Security uses to calculate retirement benefits. Plus, working a bit longer at a higher salary could make it possible to pad your IRA or 401(k) plan nicely -- and set yourself up with more retirement income that way.
3. Check your annual earnings statements
Each year, Social Security issues all workers a summary of their earnings and an estimate of their future benefits based on their earnings. Checking your annual earnings statement could lead to a higher monthly benefit down the line.
Although earnings statements are often accurate, that's not always the case. It's possible for your income to be underreported once, or more than once.
If you review your earnings statement every year and correct errors related to underreported income, it could lead to a higher benefit in the future. You can access your earnings statement at SSA.gov at any time. And if you're 60 or older, you should receive a copy of your earnings statement in the mail each year.
A higher benefit could be yours
The more money you're able to squeeze out of Social Security, the more comfortable a retirement you may be looking at. It pays to take these steps today to snag a higher monthly benefit -- and have fewer financial worries down the line.
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