How to Get a Social Security Bonus - SmartAsset (2023)

How to Get a Social Security Bonus - SmartAsset (1)

Social Security is an important part of the retirement income puzzle for many people. Even if retirement is still decades away, it’s important to understand what you can do to maximize those benefits once the time comes. Employing some simple strategies can help you enjoy a Social Security bonus when you’re ready to retire. If you’re curious about how to best manage a Social Security bonus from start to finish, you may want to consider working with a financial advisor. Check out SmartAsset’s free advisor matching tool to find advisors that serve your area.

What Is the Social Security Bonus?

There is no specific “bonus” retirees can collect from the Social Security Administration. For example, you’re not eligible to get a $5,000 bonus check on top of your regular benefits just because you worked in a specific career. Social Security doesn’t randomly award money to people. And there’s no way to legally trick Social Security into giving you more money.

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Instead, Social Security benefits are paid out according to a specific formula used by the Social Security Administration, which is based on your lifetime earnings. There are, however, some legitimate ways to effectively create a Social Security bonus for yourself by maximizing the benefit amount you’re eligible to receive. If you’re interested in calculating your Social Security amount, here are some tips to consider.

How to Get a Social Security Bonus

How to Get a Social Security Bonus - SmartAsset (2)

Option 1: Increase Your Earnings

Social Security benefits are based on your earnings. Specifically, they’re computed using your average indexed monthly earnings which represent up to 35 years of your indexed earnings. The Social Security Administration uses this amount to calculate your primary insurance amount (PIA), which determines how much you receive in retirement benefits.

A simple way to increase your benefits is to increase your lifetime earnings. Making more money means the Social Security Administration has a higher starting point for indexing your earnings. This can result in a Social Security bonus if you’re able to qualify for a higher monthly benefit amount when you retire.

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Increasing your annual income can be particularly helpful if there are gaps in your work history. The Social Security Administration looks at 35 years of earnings but a “0” is entered for years in which you don’t report any earnings. So if you have a few years where you didn’t have any income because you were in school, for example, raising your earnings for other years could help to bring up your average.

Option 2: Wait Until Age 70 to Claim Social Security Benefits

Technically, you can begin drawing Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. The catch, however, is that this will reduce your benefit amount. You can avoid this scenario by waiting until your full retirement age to begin taking benefits. This is 66 or 67 for most people, depending on when you were born.

But there’s a third option: Delay benefits until age 70. In doing so, you can get a Social Security bonus in the form of a higher benefit amount. The bonus is worth roughly 8% more for each year you delay benefits past full retirement age.

Waiting until age 70 to claim Social Security benefits can result in a larger check but you have to consider how realistic that option is. If you plan to keep working until age 70 or beyond, then you may not need to tap into your 401(k), IRA or other assets to cover your expenses. But if you plan to retire at 65, you’ll have a five-year gap in which you’ll need to draw on your assets for income.

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Option 3: Be Strategic With Spousal Benefits

Married couples can both collect Social Security retirement benefits, but it’s important to consider the timing for doing so. Again, both spouses could take benefits as early as 62, but it might pay off for the lower-earning spouse to wait to collect their benefit check.

If the second spouse waits until age 70 to claim benefits, that can result in a larger Social Security check. Whether this makes sense can depend on whether one or both of you are still working, your anticipated benefit amount and how much income you have apart from Social Security.

You’d also have to factor in life expectancies. For example, if you’re close to the same age and you have similar earnings records it might make sense for both of you to wait until age 70 to claim benefits if you expect to live longer. But if you’re in poor health and anticipate living fewer years in retirement then you might be better off taking benefits earlier. Talking to your financial advisor can help you figure out which strategy might make the most sense.

Option 4: Make the Most of COLA Increases

Social Security recipients can get an increase in benefits without doing anything at all. Cost of living adjustments issued by the government are designed to increase monthly Social Security benefit amounts in order to help retirees keep pace with inflation. For example, benefits rose by 5.9% for approximately 70 million Americans in 2022 thanks to a cost of living adjustment.

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This Social Security bonus isn’t really a bonus; it’s the Social Security Administration’s way of helping seniors counter rising consumer prices. And COLA increases don’t always match the overall rate of inflation. But getting an increase can give you more income to base your retirement budget on. That can be helpful if you find yourself paying more for healthcare or medications as you get older.

Bottom Line

How to Get a Social Security Bonus - SmartAsset (3)

The idea that there’s a hidden Social Security bonus isn’t entirely accurate. There’s no magic wand you can wave that will instantly put more benefits in your bank account. But understanding how Social Security benefits are calculated and your options for claiming those benefits can help you to get the most money possible as you prepare for retirement.

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Retirement Planning Tips

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about how to make the most of Social Security in your retirement plan.Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Social Security isn’t the only way to secure your retirement. You can also build wealth by saving consistently in your 401(k) plan and/or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). If you’re already contributing to these accounts, you might consider opening a taxable brokerage account online as well. This way, you can save even more toward retirement without being restricted by annual contribution limits.

Photo credit: ©, ©, © Oxford

Rebecca Lake, CEPF® Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She's worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.


How do you get the $16728 Social Security bonus? ›

How to get the $16,728 bonus in retirement?
  1. Work as long as you can: the later you retire the higher your benefit will be. Remember that 70 is the maximum age. ...
  2. Years worked: If you work less than 35 years you will have a reduction in your SSA check. ...
  3. High salary: with a high salary you will have a high retirement.
Sep 14, 2022

What is the Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook? ›

The $16,728 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook: If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known "Social Security secrets" could help ensure a boost in your retirement income.

Is there such a thing as a lump sum Social Security payout? ›

What is Social Security Lump Sum Death Payment? Social Security's Lump Sum Death Payment (LSDP) is federally funded and managed by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). A surviving spouse or child may receive a special lump-sum death payment of $255 if they meet certain requirements.

Does Social Security include bonuses? ›

Wages are the same for SSI purposes as for the social security retirement program's earnings test. ( See § 404.429(c) of this chapter.) Wages include salaries, commissions, bonuses, severance pay, and any other special payments received because of your employment.

How do I claim my Social Security bonus? ›

How to Get a Social Security Bonus
  1. Option 1: Increase Your Earnings. Social Security benefits are based on your earnings. ...
  2. Option 2: Wait Until Age 70 to Claim Social Security Benefits. ...
  3. Option 3: Be Strategic With Spousal Benefits. ...
  4. Option 4: Make the Most of COLA Increases.
Feb 27, 2023

What is the highest Social Security check you can get? ›

The maximum benefit depends on the age you retire. For example, if you retire at full retirement age in 2023, your maximum benefit would be $3,627. However, if you retire at age 62 in 2023, your maximum benefit would be $2,572. If you retire at age 70 in 2023, your maximum benefit would be $4,555.

What is the Social Security loophole? ›

The Restricted Application Loophole

Every year you delay, your monthly retirement benefit increases (until age 70). One Social Security loophole allowed married individuals to begin receiving a spousal benefit at full retirement age, while letting their own retirement benefit grow.

What changes are coming to Social Security in 2023? ›

The most impactful change in 2023 is the 8.7% cost of living adjustment, or COLA, which takes effect this month. For instance, if you receive $2,000 a month from Social Security, the monthly payout will rise to $2,174 per month.

What is a one time payment from Social Security? ›

We may pay a one-time emergency advance payment to an individual initially applying for benefits who is presumptively eligible for SSI benefits and who has a financial emergency.

What is the big retroactive check from Social Security? ›

The maximum that Social Security offers is six months' worth of retroactive payments in a lump sum.

Can you borrow from your Social Security? ›

All the cash you had received over the years from the SSA was like an interest-free loan from the government. That loophole was closed in 2010, so you can no longer "borrow" money from the SSA.

Do I have to report bonus to Social Security? ›

EARNINGS -- CHRISTMAS CASH BONUS. A Christmas cash bonus from an employer to an employee is earnings and must be counted in determining whether monthly social security benefits are not payable because of excess earnings.

What is the Social Security 5 year rule? ›

You must have worked and paid Social Security taxes in five of the last 10 years. • If you also get a pension from a job where you didn't pay Social Security taxes (e.g., a civil service or teacher's pension), your Social Security benefit might be reduced.

How do you know if you get a cola check from Social Security? ›

COLA notices are available online in early December, to most beneficiaries through the Message Center of their personal my Social Security account if they created their account by November 15, 2022.

Are senior citizens getting a fourth stimulus check? ›

No, Social Security Recipients Should Not Expect a 4th Stimulus Check.

What is the 10 year rule for Social Security? ›

If you were born in 1929 or later, you need 40 credits (10 years of work). If you stop working before you have enough credits to qualify for benefits, the credits will remain on your Social Security record. If you return to work later, we will add more credits based on the amount you earn.

Who qualifies to get $144 back from Medicare? ›

To qualify for a Medicare giveback benefit, you must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B. You must be responsible for paying the Part B Premiums; you should not rely on state government or other local assistance for your Part B premiums.

Why do some zip codes get more Social Security benefits? ›

Social security benefits are not impacted by geographic location but other federal benefits are.

What is the $900 grocery stimulus? ›

In short, there isn't one — yet. While there was some chatter about a possible $900 grocery stimulus for seniors 60 and over, there was zero federal funding passed for 2022 or 2023 for stimulus payments of any kind on a national scale. But the rumor won't die.

Do married couples get 2 Social Security checks? ›

No. Each spouse can claim their own retirement benefit based solely on their individual earnings history. You can both collect your full amounts at the same time. However, your spouse's earnings could affect the overall amount you get from Social Security, if you receive spousal benefits.

At what age is Social Security no longer taxed? ›

Are Social Security benefits taxable regardless of age? Yes. The rules for taxing benefits do not change as a person gets older. Whether or not your Social Security payments are taxed is determined by your income level — specifically, what the Internal Revenue Service calls your “provisional income.”

What is the lowest Social Security payment? ›

For 2021, the minimum earnings threshold was $15,930, and it increased to $16,380 in 2022. For 2022, a worker with 11 years of coverage receives a special minimum Social Security benefit of $45.50 per month, while a worker with 30 years of coverage gets a special minimum benefit of $950.80 per month.

At what age can I collect 1 2 of my husband's Social Security? ›

If you are receiving retirement or disability benefits, your spouse may be eligible for spouse benefits if they are: At least age 62. Any age and caring for a child who is under age 16 or who has a disability that began before age 22.

Can my wife receive 1 2 of my Social Security? ›

If you're getting Social Security retirement benefits, some members of your family may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. If they qualify, your ex-spouse, spouse, or child may receive a monthly payment of up to one-half of your retirement benefit amount.

What is the spouse 50 rule for Social Security? ›

Your full spouse's benefit could be up to 50 percent of your spouse's full retirement age amount if you are full retirement age when you take it. If you qualify for your own retirement benefit and a spouse's benefit, we always pay your own benefit first.

How much will Social Security pay monthly in 2023? ›

The latest such increase, 8.7 percent, becomes effective January 2023. The monthly maximum Federal amounts for 2023 are $914 for an eligible individual, $1,371 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse, and $458 for an essential person.

How much will my Social Security check increase in 2023? ›

Each year, Social Security bases the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) on changes in the Consumer Price Index. For 2023, Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security (SSI) payments will increase by 8.7%.

Why did I get an extra check this month from Social Security? ›

There Is a Quirk in the Calendar

In months where bank holidays occur, SSI payments may be pushed up. This can result in beneficiaries receiving two payments in a month. However, this doesn't mean that beneficiaries are being paid double.

Why did I get $250 from Social Security? ›

If you're married and both you and your spouse get Social Security or SSI, you each will receive a one-time $250 payment.

Who qualifies for senior one-time payment? ›

Today, the Minister of Seniors, Deb Schulte, highlighted that older seniors who were eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension in June 2021 and born on or before June 30, 1947, will receive a taxable, one-time payment of $500 next week, without needing to apply.

Why did I get a SSA 310 deposit? ›

A refund from a filed tax return, including an amended tax return or an IRS tax adjustment to your tax account – this will show as being from the IRS (“IRS TREAS 310”) and carry the code “TAX REF.”

How far back does back pay go for Social Security? ›

Retroactive benefits might go back to the date you first suffered a disability—or up to a year before the day you applied for benefits. For SSI, back pay goes back to the date of your original application for benefits.

Does SSDI back pay come in one lump sum? ›

Social Security typically pays past-due SSDI in a lump sum within 60 days of the claim being approved. If a lawyer or other professional advocate represented you in your disability case, the SSA will pay their fee out of your back pay.

What is back pay Social Security benefits? ›

Back pay is the benefits you could have received from the Social Security Administration (SSA) between the time when you applied and when your claim received approval. Depending on how long it took the SSA to approve your claim, your back pay might not amount to much.

What kind of loan can I get on Social Security? ›

Short-term loans for Social Security and SSI recipients are available from several sources, including cash advance payday loans, personal loans, and credit card advances. The required income amount may be modest.

Can I withdraw money from my Social Security number? ›

A recent hoax circulating on the internet asserts that the Federal Reserve maintains accounts for individuals that are tied to the individual's Social Security number, and that individuals can access these accounts to pay bills and obtain money. These claims are false.

How can I avoid paying tax on my bonus? ›

Bonus Tax Strategies
  1. Make a Retirement Contribution. ...
  2. Contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA) ...
  3. Defer Compensation. ...
  4. Donate to Charity. ...
  5. Pay Medical Expenses. ...
  6. Request a Non-Financial Bonus. ...
  7. Supplemental Pay vs.
Dec 29, 2022

Is a bonus considered earned income? ›

Earned income is any income received from a job or self-employment. Earned income may include wages, salary, tips, bonuses, and commissions.

Will Social Security exist in 35 years? ›

According to the 2022 annual report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, the surplus in the trust funds that disburse retirement, disability and other Social Security benefits will be depleted by 2035.

Who qualifies for COLA checks? ›

Who is eligible for Social Security COLA? Individuals ages 62 and older can receive Social Security benefits based on their earnings records. Disabled individuals and those who are blind also qualify. Family members of eligible individuals can also draw Social Security benefits.

What is the average Social Security check? ›

That's based on the agency's estimate that the average annual benefit was $29,806 for Social Security recipients who are age 65. The average yearly benefit for 65-year-olds in 2023 has risen to $30,708, or $2,559 a month.

Who is eligible for Social Security bonus? ›

For every year that you delay claiming past full retirement age, your monthly benefits will get an 8% “bonus.” That amounts to a whopping 24% if you wait to file until age 70.

What is the extra money from Social Security this month? ›

Under terms of the bill, anyone who is a current Social Security recipient, or who will turn 62 in 2023, would receive an extra $200 in each monthly check.

What is the Social Security spousal benefits loophole? ›

One Social Security loophole allowed married individuals to begin receiving a spousal benefit at full retirement age, while letting their own retirement benefit grow. This was done by filing what is called a restricted application.

Why did I get 2 Social Security checks this month? ›

If you're receiving Social Security benefits, it's possible to occasionally receive two checks in the same month. In many cases, this is because you're receiving two separate benefit payments, or because a weekend or holiday fell on the day you would normally receive your benefit check.

How much will SSI check be in 2023? ›

SSI amounts for 2023
RecipientUnrounded annual amounts for—Monthly amounts for 2023
Eligible individual$10,092.40$914
Eligible couple15,136.931,371
Essential person5,057.77458
1 more row

Will Social Security recipients get an extra$ 200 a month in 2023? ›

READ MORE: Social Security increase 2023: How much will my check be? Under the terms of the bill, current Social Security recipients or those who turn 62 in 2023 would receive an extra $200 in each monthly check, or a boost of $2,400 a year.

Who gets a COLA check? ›

Who is eligible for Social Security COLA? Individuals ages 62 and older can receive Social Security benefits based on their earnings records. Disabled individuals and those who are blind also qualify. Family members of eligible individuals can also draw Social Security benefits.

What is the 10 year rule Social Security? ›

If you were born in 1929 or later, you need 40 credits (10 years of work). If you stop working before you have enough credits to qualify for benefits, the credits will remain on your Social Security record. If you return to work later, we will add more credits based on the amount you earn.


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