It depends on a number of factors. Social Security calculates your average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. They apply a formula to these earnings and arrive at your basic benefit, or “primary insurance amount.” This is how much you would receive at your full retirement age (FRA), which is when you turn 66 or 67 ( if you were born in 1960 or later, it's 67). You can take social security starting at age 62, but it will be permanently less than your FRA amount, and you can wait to take it past age 67, in which case your FRA amount will increase by 8% a year. So the more money you made over your highest 35 years, and the longer you wait to take it, means a higher amount. If you haven't found out what your FRA amount is, you can access your social security statement from the social security website https://secure.ssa.gov/RIL/SiView.do. Social Security doesn't send annual statements anymore, so you have to go online to see your statement.
The best way to maximize your social security retirement benefits is to develop a complete picture of your retirement plans and goals, get your (and your spouse's) earnings records, and figure out what retirement income you need, and when you need it. There are factors that will impact how you coordinate benefits with your spouse and influence the filing choices you make. For example, if you plan to live into your 90's, it might be beneficial to wait until age 70 in order to increase your benefit, whereas if you have a terminal illness, collecting your benefit earlier might make sense. There are a lot of calculators and information on the Social Security Administration website (https://www.ssa.gov/retire/) that can help you develop a plan, and it also makes sense to consult with an advisor. The decisions you make when claiming your Social Security benefits can amount to a difference of ten of thousands of dollars over your lifetime.
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