The Most Important Social Security Table You'll Ever See

Retirement would be impossible for many without monthly Social Security checks, but living off these benefits alone isn't especially comfortable. The average monthly check as of May 2024 is just $1,917 per month. That's not enough to pay most people's bills.

Fortunately, there are ways to receive more than the average benefit and enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle in retirement. Things like increasing your income during your working years can help. But for those already retired, timing your claim is the best way to boost your checks.

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The power of patience

Delaying Social Security slowly increases the value of your checks over time. How quickly your benefit grows depends on your current age and your full retirement age (FRA). This is something the government assigns to you based on your birth year. The following table illustrates how quickly your benefits grow for the two most common FRAs, 66 and 67.

Benefits Grow by:

Full Retirement Age of 66

Full Retirement Age of 67

5/12 of 1% per month (5% per year)

From 62 to 63

From 62 to 64

5/9 of 1% per month (6.67% per year)

From 63 to 66

From 64 to 67

2/3 of 1% per month (8% per year)

From 66 to 70

From 67 to 70

Data source: Social Security Administration.

Because of this, waiting to claim Social Security can substantially increase your checks. If you qualify for the average $1,917 benefit at 62, waiting until 63 to claim would add $96 to your monthly Social Security check. And the longer you wait, the more quickly your checks grow. Waiting until 70 would boost a Social Security benefit from $1,917 at 62 to $3,396 per month at 70 for someone with an FRA of 67. That's almost twice as much.

Note that benefit increases for both FRAs in the table above end at 70. That's when you qualify for your maximum Social Security benefit. Delaying beyond this age won't boost your benefit any further, so be sure to sign up by then at the latest.

Who shouldn't delay

Delaying Social Security has obvious benefits for your monthly checks, but that's not the only factor to weigh when deciding whether to do it. To claim larger checks in the future, you must give up benefits for months or even years. That's not a good move for everyone.

If you don't expect to live past your 70s, you often get a larger lifetime benefit by claiming Social Security as early as possible. This enables you to claim as many checks as you can while you're still alive. Note that this isn't usually the case for adults who live into their 80s or beyond.

Retirees who are unwilling or unable to return to work and who do not have the savings to cover their expenses on their own are also better off claiming Social Security early. Delaying benefits in this case isn't useful because it could lead to increased financial pressures and even debts in the present that larger Social Security checks in the future won't fix.

If you'd like to delay Social Security but feel that it's not financially feasible, try delaying your claim by a few months rather than waiting years to sign up. Even delaying from 62 to 62 and 1 month would raise the average $1,917 monthly check by $8. And that bump is permanent. Over 20 years, that extra $8 per month would give you more than $1,900 in added benefits.

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