The maximum benefit, for 2022, is $3,895, although the vast majority of those receiving Social Security will not qualify for that amount.
Motley Fool recently looked at what has to happen for someone to attain the maximum benefit. This entails working for 35 years, earn wages at or above the “wage base limit” for at least 35 years, and begin collecting at age 70, and not before.
“If you want the highest possible standard benefit, you thus need the maximum possible average wage. And if you work for less than 35 years, you would drag your average wage down because some years of $0 earnings would be included when it’s calculated,” the Fool piece said. “Earning income at least equal to the wage base limit is also key to getting the highest possible Social Security check. See, each year, the Social Security Administration sets the wage base limit, which is the maximum wage subject to Social Security tax.”
Why can’t most people attain the maximum benefit? Mostly because they can’t earn that much money, or wait until age 70 to begin collecting.
“Many people can’t work for 35 years because they have family obligations or can’t find a position for that entire time. And many people can’t put off claiming Social Security checks until 70 either. It’s common to need (or want) to claim benefits before then in order to make retirement possible,” the Fool article said. “Finally, it’s even more difficult to earn the maximum taxable wage (or more) for a full 35 years because the wage base limit is set really high. In 2022, you’d need to earn $147,000 or more in order for your earnings to equal or exceed the maximum taxable wage. Most people don’t earn that much.”
The Social Security Administration also announced at the end of August that the main Social Security trust fund will run out of money in 2033, one year earlier than previously projected, and causing benefit levels to drop the following year. If no changes are made my Congress, full benefits will not be paid, starting that year.
“The finances of both programs have been significantly affected by the pandemic and the recession of 2020,” the Treasury Department said at the time, per CNBC.
Some Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation called Social Security 2100, which delay that deflation date to 2038, while also setting a higher minimum benefit to low-wage workers. It would also change the formula for cost of living adjustments.
Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.