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Will I Hit the Maximum Social Security Benefit if I Wait to Claim?

A reader writes in, asking:

“I am 66 years old and if I took SS now, my monthly benefit would be $2,241. I’ve read on the SSA website that there’s a maximum benefit for 2012 of $2,513. If I wait to take my benefit, will I hit the limit before 70?”

In short, no, you will not hit a maximum benefit limit as a result of waiting to claim your Social Security retirement benefit.

The maximum benefit figure you see on the SSA website is not really a maximum benefit. Rather, it’s a maximum primary insurance amount. That is, it’s the maximum retirement benefit a person could receive if he/she claimed that benefit in 2012 at his/her full retirement age.

If a person’s primary insurance amount was already at the maximum level, then she waited four years (from her full retirement age of 66 until age 70) to claim that benefit, the amount she would receive per month would be 32% greater than the $2,513 maximum benefit figure provided on the website.

Why Is There a Maximum Primary Insurance Amount?

The fact that there’s a maximum primary insurance amount isn’t the result of a separate rule specifically imposing a maximum. Rather, it’s a result of the fact that, each year, there’s a maximum amount of earnings that are subject to Social Security taxes (e.g., $110,100 for 2012). In other words, the $2,513 figure for 2012 is simply the primary insurance amount that you would have if you had earned (at least) the maximum amount subject to Social Security tax for the last 35 years.

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  1. Nice, succinct article! I had a client ask me about this very issue earlier today. I’m sending them a link to your site. Thanks!

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