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How to maximize your Social Security benefits


Wednesday, February 3, 2016, 6:00 AM

Your Social Security benefits can be maximized by taking the proper steps and avoiding certain pitfalls.

For many seniors, Social Security benefits represent an essential source of retirement income. While younger Americans are becoming aware of the imprudence of relying on Social Security too much in their post-work lives, for the near future those benefits may still be a valuable financial tool if fully utilized.

In fact, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that in 2015, more than 59 million Americans will have received nearly $ 870 billion in Social Security benefits.

However, there are certain pitfalls individuals must take care to avoid.

For instance, claiming Social Security too early can lead seniors to miss out on greater income. Delaying claims until age 70 means individuals can enjoy a 6% to 8% increase in the amount of money they receive each year.

While waiting until 70 may not be a feasible option for some seniors, delaying even one or two years can make a difference, so avoiding claiming Social Security benefits as soon as they reach retirement age may be a smart strategy.

Married couples may also be missing out on ways to maximize their benefits. With all the combinations that can be used for claiming, understanding this potential is one reason why it’s recommended that spouses seek advice from a financial professional who understands the finer points of Social Security.

Advice may be especially important when it comes to survivor benefits, since if one spouse passes away, their partner may face many years of lower benefits if they earned less during their working years.

While it’s a good idea to focus on ways to maximize Social Security benefits, many people make the mistake of making those benefits the cornerstone of their retirement income strategy.

The SSA reports that nine of 10 individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits, with this money representing 38% to 90%t of their income.

However, as the number of older Americans increases — rising to 77 million by 20331 — the ability of Social Security benefits to provide income in the future will be tested.

Individuals will want to formulate other strategies for income during their golden years.

Joshua Mellberg is an Investment Advisory Representative and licensed insurance agent. He is a sought-after speaker on retirement income planning strategies who has been featured on CNBC, PBS and Yahoo! Finance. After graduating from Western Michigan University with a business management degree, Josh started J.D. Mellberg Financial, where he vowed to always offer clients a wide array of proven retirement products and services to help protect and then manage their assets to fit their goals.

[The content provided through this article and www.nydailynews.com should be used for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the advice of a relevant professional with any questions about any financial decision you are seeking to make.]

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