Why the $4,555 Maximum Social Security Benefit Is Fantastical


Thanks to a massive 8.7% increase in Social Security benefits this year, the maximum monthly check a retiree can claim is $4,555 a month, or $54,660 a year.

But don’t get too excited just yet, because qualifying for this amount is no easy feat. It depends on a number of factors, including how long you’ve been in your career, how much you’ve earned, and when you’ve decided to claim your benefits. In fact, claiming checks of up to $4,555 is truly an illusion. Here’s why:

a lot of things have to go right

Because Social Security is a complex program, it has complex rules. The first thing retirees need to do to have a chance to claim maximum benefits is to work for at least 35 years. This is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates her 35-year average of highest income to calculate her Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). Her FRA is 67 for those born after 1960.

Person looking at documents on sofa.

Image Source: Getty Images.

So even if you’ve worked less than 35 years, you can almost kiss your chances of getting a top dollar check. For his under-35 years with no earnings, the SSA will set the earnings at zero, which greatly undermines the PIA.

The next thing a retiree must do to claim maximum benefits is to delay claiming benefits for as long as possible. You have the option to initiate billing. However, if the retiree claims before her FRA, benefits can be significantly reduced. .

On the other hand, retirees are rewarded with delayed benefits. For each month past her FRA that a retiree delays benefits, benefits increase by her two-thirds by 1% each month. This equates to 8% per annum if a retiree delays retirement until her 70, the latest age at which benefits can be deferred, resulting in a 24% increase in benefits for her.

The last and arguably the most difficult thing retirees have to do to get maximum Social Security checks is to become a high earner over the course of their career. 6.2% for individuals and employers and 12.4% for self-employed. However, the government can only apply social security taxes to a fixed amount of workers’ income, known as the benefit base. The 2022 benefit base was $147,000. This year it is $160,200.

The benefit base rises as benefits increase, mainly due to inflation. To qualify for the largest check, the retiree must have achieved at least a benefit base or better in her 35-year career.

maximizing social security is very difficult

Achieving a profit base is not impossible, but very difficult. Working a career for 35 years is certainly doable, but often retirees cannot afford to defer benefit claims until age 70 due to health and financial circumstances.

It is also extremely difficult to consistently create an amount equivalent to benefits for 35 years. That’s why many people view Social Security checks up to $4,555 as fantasies.

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