Nearly all qualifying seniors claim Social Security benefits, and President Joe Biden is no exception. Since he’s publicly shared some of his recent tax returns, we know exactly how much the President receives from the program, and the answer might surprise you. Here’s a closer look Biden’s benefit and how it compares to the average American’s.
A bigger benefit for Biden
The average Social Security benefit for 2019 — the most recent year for which Biden’s tax returns are available — was about $1,563 per month. That adds up to about $18,756 per year.
In 2019, President Biden received $35,069 from the program, or about $2,922 per month. That’s over $16,000 more than the typical worker received during the year.
But it’s still way off the maximum Social Security benefit available. Top-earning seniors who waited until age 70 before claiming could have raked in $3,770 per month in 2019, amounting to $45,240 per year.
It’s worth noting that these numbers are a little out of date. The average worker’s Social Security benefit has now climbed to about $1,559 per month, thanks to annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). These raise everyone’s Social Security benefits slightly to counter inflation.
COLAs have also raised the maximum Social Security benefit to $3,895 per month in 2021. Biden’s benefit has increased, too. Factoring in the 1.6% Social Security COLA in 2020 and the 1.3% COLA in 2021, his monthly benefit would be roughly $3,008 per month in 2021.
How to make your Social Security benefit even better
Beating Biden’s Social Security benefit is a tall order, but it might be possible for some workers who take the following steps.
First, make sure you work long enough. Your Social Security benefit is based on your average monthly earnings over your 35 highest-earning years. If you work for fewer years, the government will add some zero-income years into your calculation, and this will reduce your monthly benefit.
Working longer than 35 years is usually a good idea because people often earn more money later in their careers than they did when they were younger. These later, higher-earning years gradually replace their earlier, lower-earning years in their benefit calculation, resulting in larger checks.
Anything you can do to increase your income during your working years will also help boost your Social Security benefits, as long as you’re earning less than $142,800 in 2021. That’s the maximum income subject to Social Security tax, so anything over this amount won’t increase your benefit. This limit will rise to $147,000 in 2022.
Most importantly, delaying benefits can also increase your checks. You become eligible for Social Security at 62, but you must wait until your full retirement age (FRA) — between 66 and 67 — to get the full amount you’re entitled to based on your work history. You can also continue delaying benefits past your FRA and your checks will grow a little every month until you reach your maximum benefit at 70.
Waiting to claim isn’t always wise, though. If you have serious health issues or you need Social Security to help you pay your bills, signing up earlier is the better choice.
Tracking your progress
If you want a concrete idea of how large your Social Security checks will be, create a my Social Security account. There you’ll find a record of all the income on which you’ve paid Social Security taxes over the years, as well as a benefit calculator that can tell you how much you’ll receive per month at various starting ages. If you anticipate your income changing over the years, you can also see how this will affect your checks.
Once you have a sense of how much money you’ll receive from the program, subtract this from your total estimated retirement expenses to figure out what you must save on your own. Redo these calculations once every year or two to make sure you’re still on track for your goals. It won’t take long and can help you avoid unpleasant financial shocks in retirement.