Many retirees could benefit from increasing their income even after they’ve already retired. Once you factor in medical and prescription costs, entertainment during all that extra leisure time, and simple everyday surprises, increasing your Social Security check even after retirement sounds pretty appealing. Believe it or not, you actually can get more from Social Security!
Ways To Increase Social Security Benefits
Here are the most common ways retired persons can gain more income during their retirement years:
Okay, so the COLA, or Cost of Living Adjustment, is technically not something you as the retiree have any control over. The way it works is that the Department of Labor sets its Consumer Price Index, which determines the baseline cost of living for United States citizens. Legally, whenever the cost of living rises due to inflation, the government and Social Security Administration are obligated to increase all federal benefits.
So for retirees, one annual event to look forward to is the announcement of cost-of-living adjustments. For example, in 2019, Social Security recipients received a 2.8% COLA, the highest since 2012. The COLA should give your benefit check a boost each year, and you don’t have to do a thing to receive this!
2) Withdraw Your Application and Start Over
A second manner of giving yourself a raise in your retirement is to request a do-over. This option exists for those retirees who realize they may have acted rashly by taking their Social Security benefits too soon.
The reason you might withdraw your application is that the later in life you begin taking benefits, the greater your benefits will be. A person who starts taking Social Security at age 62, when their “full” retirement age is 67, will receive 30% lower benefit checks than if they waited until age 67. So, in general, waiting to cash in on Social Security is financially beneficial. But many of us don’t want to wait that long and end up regretting it.
One key factor to note is that the choice to “start over” with Social Security is only possible if you are still within 12 months of the date you began receiving benefits. Once you’ve been a beneficiary for more than a year, you lose that privilege.
You should not make this decision lightly. For one thing, each person is limited to only one withdrawal of their Social Security application in their lifetime. If you decide to do this, you cannot waver back and forth for years, applying and withdrawing. It’s a one-time offer.
Another reason to withdraw only after careful consideration: You are then required to repay all benefits you have thus far received from Social Security. It may seem obvious, but it’s vital to remember that you are responsible for returning all of that money, including spousal benefits, when you withdraw your Social Security application.
3) Suspend Your Benefits Until Age 70
For those of you who have already begun taking benefits and are past the 12-month cancellation window, have no fear. There is another option that produces a similar result: once you are at full retirement age, you may suspend your benefits until as late as age 70.
By suspending your benefits, you will cease to receive payments from Social Security until you are ready to reinstate them. This may be only for a year or two, but when you reach 70 years of age, your benefits will be automatically reinstated. Suspending benefits temporarily will result in a higher check from Social Security once you eventually are back in the system.
4) Continue Working Part-Time In Retirement
This option may sound like an oxymoron: working while retired? But it’s a viable option for many retirees, especially if they elect to start drawing down benefits earlier than their full retirement age.
You can continue working, but receive reduced payments from Social Security. Since there are limits to how much you are allowed to earn while getting Social Security, it’s important to plan carefully. Before full retirement age, you can be penalized for earning “too much”, so be aware of exactly how your earned income will impact your benefits.
If you thought it was too late to increase your monthly checks, since you’ve already claimed Social Security and started collecting benefits, you are fortunately incorrect. Your benefits are not etched in stone, and through these strategies, you can make significant changes to your Social Security benefits even during retirement!