How to Qualify for the Highest Social Security Benefit Possible

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

Maximizing your retirement paycheck and getting the most out of Social Security is a goal for many retirees.

In 2023, the highest possible Social Security benefit is $4,555 a month. Read on to learn what you would have needed to do to qualify for this amount.

How To Qualify for the Highest Possible Social Security Payment

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The following are the things you need to have done/do in order to qualify for the highest possible Social Security payment.

1. Work for 35 years

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You only need to work for 10 years in an eligible job to qualify for Social Security.

However, to max Your Social Security benefit, you should work at least 35 years.

2. Max out your salary over at least 35 years

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Your benefit is based on the average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most.

To be eligible for the maximum Social Security benefit allowable, you must have consistently earned an amount that is equal to or exceeds the Social Security Administration’s maximum taxable earnings limit throughout your career.

For 2023, the maximum limit is $160,200 per year. The amount changes yearly to account for cost-of-living adjustments.

3. Delay starting benefits until age 70

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The longer you wait to start your benefits, up until age 70, the more your check will be.

According to the Social Security Administration, the maximum monthly benefit that anyone can receive in 2023 is:

  • $2,572 if you start benefits at age 62
  • $3,279 if you start at 65
  • $3,506 if you file at age 66
  • $3,808 if you start at 67

4. Live a long time

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Maxing out your Social Security benefits is about more than just maximizing your monthly paycheck.

You also want to consider how long you will be receiving those benefits and calculate your potential lifetime benefit amount.

To figure out your lifetime benefit amount, simply multiply your monthly paycheck times the number of months you expect to receive benefits.

So, for example, if you are eligible for a maximum benefit and will live until age 85, you will earn significantly less over your lifetime than if you were to live till age 95.

If you claim at 70 and live until 85, you will earn benefits for a total of 180 months. This will add up (not including COLA adjustments) to $819.900. However, if you live to be 95, you will collect benefits for 300 months and rack up $1,366,500 in Social Security benefits over your lifetime.

NOTE: The longer you live, the more it behooves you to hold off starting benefits.

5. If you’re married, make sure the highest earner claims later

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Okay, so getting the most out of Social Security is a matter of earning the highest possible salary for at least 35 years and delaying the start of benefits and living a long time.

However, if you are married, there is another factor to consider. You want to factor both your own as well as your spouse’s longevity.

If one of you dies before the other, then the surviving spouse will get to make a choice about which Social Security benefit to receive. (A surviving spouse is entitled to just one benefit – not both.)

And, if the higher-earning spouse has maxed out their benefit, then the surviving spouse will enjoy the bigger paycheck.

The highest earner in a couple should typically defer the start of benefits as long as possible up until the maximum retirement age of 70. Don’t focus on who is older or who retires first. The key is to make sure the highest earner grabs the highest possible payout.

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