Unlike other forms of income, there is a limit to how much money you or anyone else can get from Social Security each month. The maximum amount might change from year to year, but once you hit it, you can’t go above it.
In July 2023, the maximum Social Security retirement check is $4,555 a month, according to the Social Security Administration. You can only get that if you have waited until age 70 to claim your retirement benefits.
If you claim benefits at full retirement age in 2023 — either 66 or 67 years old, depending on your birth year — your maximum benefit would be $3,627 a month. If you claim benefits at age 62 (the earliest you can claim them), your maximum benefit would be $2,572.
To put those figures in context, the average Social Security retirement benefit as of March 2023 was $1,833 a month, according to AARP.
To qualify for the maximum benefit, you must have equaled or exceeded Social Security’s maximum taxable income for at least 35 years of your working life, AARP noted. The maximum taxable income is the amount of wages on which you pay Social Security taxes, which are deducted from your earnings.
In 2023, the maximum taxable income is $160,200 a year. Any earnings above that are not subject to Social Security taxes. The figure is adjusted every year based on shifts in national wage levels, which means the maximum benefit changes each year.
If you want to max out your Social Security check in retirement, the first thing you need to do is commit to working full-time for at least 35 full years. Working more than 35 years won’t necessarily help, The Motley Fool reported, but working less than 35 years means you probably won’t earn the maximum.
Beyond that, you need to earn a much higher-than-average salary to qualify for the maximum benefit. Median weekly earnings during the 2023 first quarter were $1,100 a week or $57,200 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You would need to nearly triple that salary to reach Social Security’s maximum taxable income of $160,200 a year.
You also must wait until age 70 to claim retirement benefits to earn the maximum payout — which means you plan to hold out longer than most people. As of 2021, the average age that people started collecting benefits was 65.1 years, CNN reported, citing data from the American Academy of Actuaries.
One thing to keep in mind is that the maximum Social Security benefit is not the same as the maximum family benefit. As AARP noted, the maximum family benefit is the most a family can collectively receive from Social Security on a single family member’s earnings record — including retirement, spousal, children’s, disability or survivor benefits.
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