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Social Security: Here’s why most retirees fall short of the maximum benefit

The average retiree’s benefit is over $2,000 below the maximum.

Social Security cards and money

Social Security benefits are based on the income you made during your working years.


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Why don’t I get the maximum benefit?

The maximum monthly Social Security benefit is $4,194, as of 2022. However, the average retiree gets $2,538 less than the maximum each month. That means, the average Social Security check for retirees is $1,657.

Most people get well below the monthly maximum simply because it is based on your average earnings during your working years.

Social Security is intended to replace about 40% of your pre-retirement income. However, the formula works with you. The SSA calculates the standard benefit by:

  • Collects data on wages earned each year
  • Adjusts the wages for inflation
  • Applies a formula that gives retirees benefits equaling a percentage of their average wages over their 35 highest-earning years

In order to get the $4,194 maximum benefit, you would have to make more than the wage base limit for 35 full years and wait until 70 to start claiming benefits. That is 8 years after you can innately start claiming your Social Security benefits. For most people, that just isn’t feasible. which is why the average benefit is much lower than the maximum.


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