The maximum monthly Social Security benefits a person can get in 2023 is $4,555 if they wait until age 70 to claim their benefits. The maximum amount of benefits a married couple can receive would be $9,110 if both of them are separately able to claim the maximum amount of $4,555. But there are a lot of caveats and other things to understand about maximizing your Social Security benefits—let’s take a deeper dive. If you’d like personalized assistance preparing for retirement, consider working with financial advisor.
What Are Social Security Benefits?
The Social Security Administration provides retirement income to most American workers as well as benefits to qualifying disabled people. Qualifying retirees can begin their Social Security benefits between the ages of 62 and 70. The longer you wait, the higher your monthly payments will be.
For instance, a single person born in 1970 that made $70,000 in annual income would get $27,588 in annual Social Security benefits if they started taking their benefits when they turned 62. If that same person waited until the age of 70 to claim Social Security, their annual benefits would be $48,993. You can get an estimate of what your annual Social Security benefits will be at different ages and different average incomes with SmartAsset’s free calculator.
How Do Benefits Differ for Single People and Married Couples?
First, it’s helpful to know how Social Security benefits are calculated. There are two main elements to figuring out how much money you’ll get each year from Social Security.
- Averaged indexed monthly earnings: The Social Security Administration will take a look at the amount you earned each month over up to 35 years of employment. They’ll identify the years where you earned the highest amounts, then average your monthly earnings.
- The age at which you retire: As discussed above, the longer you wait to receive your Social Security benefits, the larger your payments will be. You can receive your benefits as early as 62, but by waiting a few years you will see larger amounts.
In many cases, married couples will collect two separate Social Security checks based on their own earnings record and the age at which they decided to claim their benefits. Rather than having a maximum married benefit limit, the maximum amount they would receive would be double the maximum benefits for a single person.
This is different in the case of a spouse that didn’t work or didn’t work long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits. These people will often qualify for spousal benefits instead, which max out at half of the working spouse’s Social Security benefit amount. Again, the maximum amount of the benefit will be determined by when you choose to begin claiming benefits and, in this case, your spouse’s average earnings over their lifetime.
What’s the Maximum Social Security Benefit Married Couples Can Receive?
In 2023, if you retire at your full retirement age, the maximum monthly Social Security retirement benefit would be $3,627. For a married couple who are both receiving the maximum amount and both retired at full retirement age, that amount would be $7,254. That amount would be less for a person who retires at age 62 ($2,572) and more for a person who retires at 70 ($4,555).
So for example, if a married couple both qualified for the maximum amount and both held off on claiming their Social Security benefits until age 70, they could receive $9,110 in monthly benefits in 2023. A married couple in which one spouse didn’t work and instead qualified for spousal payments would max out at $6,832.50—the maximum benefit for the working spouse and half that for the spouse that didn’t work.
How Can I Get the Maximum Social Security Benefit?
To ensure that you qualify for the maximum benefit of $4,555 a month, you’ll need to work for 35 years earning a salary that is equal to or greater than the wage cap for that entire time. In 2023, the wage cap is $160,200.
However, only a very small percentage of workers will qualify for the maximum amount. In 2021, the Congressional Research Service reported that only about 6% of workers earned more than the wage cap amount, a percentage that has remained “relatively stable” over time.
To earn the highest benefit possible as a married couple, both partners should try to earn as much as possible during their working years and put off claiming their benefits until as close to age 70 as possible.
The Bottom Line
The maximum monthly Social Security benefit of $4,555 is only available to high earners who wait to claim their benefits until the age of 70. The maximum benefit a married couple could collect would be twice that—$9,110—and require both of them to earn $160,200 or more over 35 years of work. Stay-at-home spouses who haven’t worked enough to qualify for their Social Security benefits can claim spousal benefits of up to half of their spouse’s monthly benefits.
Retirement Planning Tips
- A financial advisor can offer advice on any of your Social Security, Medicare or retirement savings needs. Finding a 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 have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- If you’re not sure you’ve saved enough for retirement, our retirement calculator can help. Use it to determine your estimated Social Security benefits, how much money you need to retire and how much annual income you’ll need in retirement.
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