8 Ways To Maximize Social Security Benefits if You’re Single

The right strategy can help you get the most from this retirement program.
Updated April 9, 2024
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Navigating Social Security as a single individual can be complex. But when planning for retirement, it is crucial to have a sound plan for maximizing your benefits.

Here are some key ways to optimize your Social Security benefits if you're single.

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Keep working until later in life

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a formula to determine the size of your Social Security benefits. As part of this process, the SSA takes up to 35 years of what is known as your “average indexed monthly earnings.”

The 35 years the SSA chooses when calculating your benefit are when you earned the most money. So, working later in life — particularly if your salary is especially high — can push your benefit amount higher.

Wait until after age 62 to collect Social Security benefits

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Delaying your Social Security benefits beyond the age of 62 can significantly increase your monthly payments.

Also, for each year up until the age of 70 that you delay claiming benefits beyond full retirement age — typically 66 or 67, depending on your birth year — your benefit amount increases by 8%, according to the SSA.

Start collecting Social Security at age 70

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As we mentioned earlier, waiting until age 70 to start collecting Social Security benefits will maximize the size of your monthly check.

This can substantially boost your monthly income, providing greater financial security in your later years.

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Collect benefits early if your health is poor

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Yes, it often makes sense to hold off on collecting Social Security benefits until you reach full retirement age or 70.

But that is not always true. There may be situations where it makes more sense to claim earlier.

For example, if your health is poor and you don’t expect to live a long life, it often makes sense to take Social Security earlier instead of later. If you wait too long, you might die before you get any Social Security benefits.

Think twice about working and collecting Social Security benefits

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If you start collecting Social Security benefits before reaching full retirement age and continue to work, your benefits may be temporarily reduced if your earnings exceed certain limits.

In the short term, this will mean less money coming in each month. However, any benefits withheld due to excess earnings are not lost permanently. They will be factored into your future benefit payments once you reach full retirement age.

Still, if you haven’t reached full retirement age, it often makes sense to hold off applying for benefits until you stop working.

Apply for survivors benefits you are a widow or widower

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Widows or widowers may be eligible for survivors benefits based on their late spouse's Social Security earnings record.

This benefit can range from 71.5% to 100% of the deceased spouse's benefit amount. The precise percentage depends on several factors, including the survivor's age at the time.

Move to a state that doesn't tax Social Security benefits

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Relocating to a state with no income tax or one that exempts Social Security benefits from taxation can help stretch your retirement income further.

States without an income tax include Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.

More than three dozen states and the District of Columbia don't impose taxes on Social Security benefits.

If you were previously married, check whether you're eligible for higher Social Security benefits

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Divorced individuals may be eligible for Social Security benefits based on their ex-spouse's earnings record.

If you were married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years, are currently unmarried, and are at least 62 years old, you might qualify for divorced spouse benefits. You can only use this option if your ex-spouse's benefit exceeds yours.

Bottom line

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Having a sound strategy in place for filing for Social Security benefits is crucial before you retire.

As you navigate your Social Security options as a single individual, consider using the strategies on this list to maximize your benefits and secure your financial future.

FinanceBuzz is not an investment advisor. This content is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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Adam Palasciano Adam Palasciano is a personal finance-obsessed and money-savvy individual who loves to hash out content on all things saving money. He specializes in writing millennial-friendly personal finance content, covering topics ranging from trending financial news, debt, credit cards, cryptocurrency, and more.

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