The Surprising Thing You Can Do Today to Get More Social Security

A higher monthly benefit could be yours if you’re willing to do a small amount of legwork.

Although many people do their best to save well for retirement, building a large nest egg is easier said than done. From mortgage payments to child care expenses, many workers struggle to fund their savings because their paychecks are monopolized by too many near-term expenses.

It’s not all that surprising, then, that the median retirement savings balance among Americans aged 65 to 74 is only $200,000, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. But if we apply the famous 4% rule to a balance that size, it only allows for about $8,000 in annual income.

As such, it’s easy to see why so many retirees wind up extremely reliant on Social Security to cover their expenses. And if that’s the boat you expect to be in, then you’ll want to do everything within your power to lock in as generous a monthly benefit as possible.

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But there’s one simple move you can make today to help ensure that your monthly Social Security checks are as large as possible. Unfortunately, though, it’s an easy step many people don’t know to take.

A few minutes of legwork could go a long way

The monthly Social Security benefit you’re entitled to in retirement will hinge on your personal wage history. Specifically, the Social Security Administration (SSA) takes your 35 highest-paid years in the labor force and indexes your wages to inflation to arrive at your monthly retirement benefit.

What this means, though, is that if the SSA has inaccurate wage data on file for you, it could result in a lower monthly Social Security benefit if your income has been underreported. That’s why it’s so important to see what information the SSA is looking at.

Doing so is very simple. Create an account on the SSA’s website, and then go access your earnings statement each year. That statement contains a few pieces of vital information. In addition to a summary of your wages, it includes an estimate of your future Social Security benefit.

If the wage data your earnings statement contains is accurate, you’re good to go. If there’s a mistake, it’s important that you contact the SSA as soon as possible to rectify it. Doing so could spell the difference between a smaller Social Security benefit in retirement and the benefit you actually deserve.

Boosting your wages could go a long way, too

Checking your annual earnings statement doesn’t have to be a time-consuming affair. And addressing discrepancies could lead to a more generous monthly benefit come retirement.

But another step you can take to set yourself up with a larger Social Security benefit is to boost your wages while you’re still working. And there are ways to do that beyond simply pushing for a raise. If you join the gig economy and take on a side job, not only can it put extra money in your bank account, but it could also lead to higher Social Security payments down the line.

Plus, a side gig could make it possible to fund your retirement plan more consistently and get your savings to a level that’s beyond the median $200,000 balance mentioned above. A larger nest egg, combined with the Social Security benefit you’ve earned, could set you up for a much more comfortable retirement.

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