As of January 2016, the maximum Social Security monthly benefit one can collect is $2,639 (this excludes those with disabled children who can also collect for family members).
How Do you collect the Maximum Social Security Monthly Benefit?
Social Security uses your highest 35 years of indexed earnings. Indexed earnings (we are simplifying here) are your inflation adjusted earnings. For example, your indexed earnings for 2005 are your actual earnings multiplied by 1.1017 (i.e. increased by 10.17%). So if you earned 10,000 in 2005, Social Security indexes this to $11,170 in order to calculate your benefit.
Tip: if you are working now and you earnings exceed $118,500 annually, you are likely helping yourself by continuing to work. Unless your indexed earnings were higher in the past (use the table below as a rough guide), you are probably adding to your 35 highest earning years.
By indexing earnings in this manner, Social Security is removing the problem of wages being much lower in the past and basing your benefit on those low earnings. This process helps you get closer to the maximum Social Security monthly benefit.
While close, but not exact, you would have needed to earn the amounts below, or more, in order to collect the current maximum Social Security monthly benefit of $2,639 per month.
The following issues will reduce your maximum Social Security monthly benefit.
- If you start collecting before your full retirement age (age 66 if you are retiring now), you will receive less than the maximum. For example, if you start your benefits at age 62, you will get 25% less.
- If you start collecting benefits and still have earned income from working, for every $2 you earn above $1310 per month, you will give up $1 of Social Security income. Once you reach the year in which you turn age 66, for every $3 you earn above $3490 per month, you give up $1 in Social Security.
Once you turn age 66, you can earn as much as you desire without any deductions from your Social Security benefit and may receive maximum Social Security monthly benefit if your earnings history supports it.
Tip: It's not just ow much you collect form Social Security, it's how much you keep. Be sure to see our article on how to avoid taxes on your Social Security income.
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