Worried You Won't Have Enough Retirement Income? This Social Security Move Could Help.

The average retirement income for U.S. adults aged 65 and over is $75,020. On a monthly basis, that's about $6,252.

But if you're counting on Social Security to provide you with that much income, you'd better rethink your plans. As of January 2024, the average monthly Social Security benefit was $1,907, and this year, the maximum monthly benefit Social Security will pay is $4,873. However, only people who were high earners during their careers can qualify for a benefit that high.

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As such, if you're hoping for roughly $6,252 a month in income, you should not expect all of it to come from Social Security. But maybe you're willing to settle for less income. Or more accurately, maybe you're simply resigned to having less income based on the state of your present savings.

If you're worried you won't have enough retirement income to live comfortably, it's a good idea to start ramping up on the savings front immediately. But what if you're just a few years away from retirement and there isn't time to make much progress there?

In that case, Social Security may be able to come to your rescue via a higher monthly benefit. But snagging that boost may require some sacrifice on your part.

Are you willing to delay your Social Security claim?

You're entitled to your complete monthly Social Security benefit based on your individual wage history once full retirement age (FRA) arrives. That age is either 66, 67, or somewhere in between, depending on when you were born.

However, for each year you delay your Social Security filing past FRA, your monthly benefit will get an 8% boost. While this incentive runs out at age 70, you could snag a minimum 24% boost to your Social Security payments by filing at that time.

There's one potential problem, though. Delaying Social Security until age 70 might mean you'll have to work until age 70. And that's a situation you might consider less than ideal.

Weighing your options

Let's say you're about to turn 67 and are gearing up to both claim Social Security and retire. The idea of having to work until age 70 so you can delay your filing until then may seem unappealing. So you'll need to weigh the pros and cons of extending your career for a higher monthly benefit for life.

The downside is obvious -- you'll have to stick out a job, and possibly one you really don't like, for a few more years. But think about it this way: Would you rather put yourself through a less-than-ideal situation for another three years or spend what could be a 20-year retirement or longer struggling financially due to inadequate income?

When you think about it that way, it may be more than worth it to work a few more years if it sets you up for a retirement that's far more financially secure.

If you really can't stand the idea of working three more years when you're already feeling like you want to retire, there's another option -- work one or two more years. Delaying your Social Security claim even six months past FRA will still give you a nice increase, and it's a good way to compensate for minimal savings.

The amount of income you'll need as a retiree will hinge on several factors. These include where you live and how you live. But if you're worried you won't have enough money coming in to pay the bills, you should strongly consider delaying your Social Security filing until age 70. And if that truly isn't doable, then at least consider delaying your claim past FRA to some degree.

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