Getting the most Social Security you are Eligible for

Social Security is your retirement insurance, as long as you have contributed to the plan and have at least 40 quarters of qualifying income. There are not really any ways to maximize your Social Security benefit. What you can maximize is the amount that you collect from Social Security over your life time.

Once you turn 61, you have nine months to think about whether or not you want to take an early distribution of your Social Security Benefits. If you are thinking about collecting your Social Security and continuing to work you must realize that you can only do that up to $14,160 (in 2010) without penalty, after this amount you will lose $1 of benefit for every $2 you earn. If you make $50,000 and were getting a $1200 a month Social Security check you will receive nothing, your $14,400 is less than the $18,000 that would be deducted for your employment.  If you are going to work part time and make $20,000 then it might be worth it to continue to work since you will only have $2920 deducted from your $14,400.  This is something that you need to consider seriously since every year that you work adds more money to your benefit.

Only you know your family history. It is a bit like playing Russian Roulette, trying to figure how long you are going to live. Obviously, if you die at 70, you would have collected more if you had retired at 62 then if you retire at 66 or 67. If you honestly believe that you will live past the age of 76, it is in your best financial interest to wait until you are 66 to retire or at least to collect your Social Security. It takes ten years for you to catch up with the amount that people who retire early at 62 would earn but after that time you will earn considerably more every year than the early retiree. With the average American living longer than 78 years and many much longer, this decision that you will make when you are 61 years and 9 months if very important.

If you can work part time for the 4 years between the ages of 62 and 66 and stay below the $14,160 you can indeed maximize your earning potential. One of the strongest negatives of taking the early option is if you had healthcare provided by your employer. Medicare does not go into effect until age 65, which leaves a three year gap where you will have to provide your own health insurance. That is incentive enough for most people to continue to work. Since many employers do not provide health care for part time employees, you need to take this into consideration.

Having considered all the options, you may just decide that you will maximize your Social Security by waiting at least until age 65 to retire and perhaps even longer. Only you can decide how necessary Social Security is to you retirement plans.