14 Ways to Get Bigger Checks From Social Security

If you have focused all your retirement planning energy on your 401(k), you may be missing a key piece of the puzzle: Social Security.

You can influence your eventual payout from this safe, dull old-age safety net to a surprising degree by making some adjustments and changes in your planning.

The time to get started pumping up your Social Security checks is now, even if you’ve got decades to go before retirement. Here are some ways to do just that.

1. Work more years

old worker photo

Photo (cc) by NCDOTcommunications

You must work at least 10 years to collect Social Security. The size of your benefit checks is decided by a formula that is based on your 35 highest-earning years of work. If you didn’t work 35 years, the formula uses zeros for the missing years. Zero years lower your benefits, so add as many more years of work as you can.

SocialSecurity.gov explains the details and shows how benefits are calculated.

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