What are the best ways to maximize your Social Security benefits? The Social Security Administration doesn’t give case-specific advice to individuals, so it’s up to the individual worker to know the rules and do the proper research.

For example, writing on the Bankrate.com website, Jennie L. Phipps describes some keys to getting the most out of Social Security:

(1) Wait a while. At age 70, the monthly benefit is 76 percent higher than it would be at age 62 and 32 percent higher than it would be at age 66.

(2) But then again....Doug Carey, founder of the financial planning firm Wealth Trace, says Social Security requires you to bet on your own longevity, and if you lose the bet, you could get nothing. So it could benefit you to take the money at your earliest opportunity.

Retired Washington University (St. Louis, Mo.)  law professor and Social Security expert Merton Bernstein says the longevity bet odds are bad, so claim early. “You never know when the bell will ring. I subscribe to the Woody Allen principle: ‘Take the money and run.'”

(3) Delaying divorce can pay off: If you’ve waited nine years, try to stick it out for one more. It takes 10 years of marriage to be able to make a claim on your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits. If you make it for 10 years, you can collect a benefit based on half your ex-spouse’s earnings or on the basis of your own, whichever is higher.

(4) Widows and widowers have options: Dan Keady, director of financial planning for TIAA-CREF, explains that a widow or widower can begin benefits based on his or her earnings record and then switch to survivor’s benefits, or vice versa. The latter option — starting with survivor’s benefits — can allow the widow or widower to let his/her own benefits grow in value to full retirement age.

(5) Make sure you work for 35 years: Your Social Security payment is computed based on a 35-year average of your covered wages. If you’ve worked for more than 35 years, the Social Security Administration will use the highest 35 years. If you’ve worked for less than 35 years, the government will plug in zeros for the years you’re lacking. Obviously, that drags down your average. The longer you can work, the more you’ll increase your payment.

DirectPay Payroll can help business owners be sure they’re making the correct Social Security and other payroll tax computations, and can provide a variety of other services from check-writing to producing reports.

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