3 Steps to Claiming the $4,873 Max Monthly Social Security Benefit

As a member of the U.S. workforce, you’re obligated to pay into Social Security as you earn wages. And as such, you may be eager to collect as much money in benefits during retirement as you can.

It may also interest you to know that the maximum monthly benefit Social Security will pay out this year is $4,873. That’s over $58,000 a year, which is a nice income by itself. And if it’s one you’re interested in snagging, here the three steps you’ll need to take.

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1. Work for at least 35 years

You may not have every dollar you earn count toward your future Social Security benefit. But you should know that the program accounts for your 35 most profitable years in the labor force when determining what monthly benefit to pay you. So if you want the maximum monthly benefit Social Security will give out, you’ll need to have 35 years of work under your belt at a minimum.

2. Earn high wages

It’s not enough to just work for 35 years in your lifetime. If you want Social Security’s maximum benefit, you’ll need to earn a really high wage for 35 years — specifically, a high enough wage to meet or exceed each year’s annual cap for Social Security tax purposes.

Remember, workers don’t pay Social Security taxes on all of their income. This year, only wages of up to $168,600 are taxed. Next year, that cap is likely to increase. But either way, you need your earnings to meet or exceed the wage cap for 35 years to have a shot at Social Security’s maximum benefit.

3. Delay your filing until age 70

At full retirement age (FRA), you’re entitled to the complete monthly benefit Social Security should be paying you based on your individual earnings history. But if you want the program’s maximum monthly benefit, you’ll need to be prepared to delay your filing until age 70.

Now in some cases, that might mean having to work until age 70. And if you hate your job or it’s bad for your health, then frankly, chasing that maximum monthly benefit may not be worth doing. But if you enjoy your job and have the option to keep at it, claiming Social Security at 70 instead of at FRA could result in a much higher monthly income stream for life.

Don’t worry if you don’t end up with the maximum monthly Social Security benefit

Getting $4,873 a month from Social Security is a really nice thing — there’s no question about it. But remember, most recipients don’t get anywhere close to that much money from Social Security on a monthly basis. And if getting that maximum benefit just isn’t in the cards for you, whether because your career earnings aren’t high enough or you don’t have enough working years under your belt, don’t sweat it. There are other things you can do to set yourself up with a nice amount of retirement income.

First, do your best to fund an IRA or 401(k) plan consistently while you’re still earning a paycheck. And if you have access to a 401(k), aim to snag your full employer match each year.

Next, consider investing in assets that can continue to pay you as a retiree. Both dividend stocks and municipal bonds fit nicely into this category.

Finally, consider some type of part-time work in retirement to generate income and stay busy. In today’s gig economy, you don’t even have to settle for a fixed job schedule. You can make your own hours and work at your own pace at something you love.

If you’re a high enough earner with a lengthy career, and claiming Social Security at age 70 is feasible and desirable, then you might end up with the program’s maximum monthly benefit. If not, know that all certainly isn’t lost.

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