For Mark Roberts’ Use: You probably know that most retirees can’t depend upon Social Security benefits alone, and should plan for at least one other form of retirement income. Having said that, Social Security is an important part of most retiree budgets. So, in the years leading up to retirement, it makes sense to do all that you can to maximize those benefits.

Before you retire, check your earnings report. Mistakes can and do happen. Since Social Security calculates your benefits according to your earnings record, it’s a smart idea to double check that their figures are correct. You can access your earnings report by visiting your local office, or by signing up for an account on Social Security’s website.

Avoid dragging down your averages. As we mentioned, your benefits will be calculated according to your earnings record. Social Security averages your 35 highest-earning years of work, and then continues their calculations from there. If you didn’t work at least 35 years, having zeros averaged into your equation can lower your final benefit.

Avoid an “early” retirement, if possible. Social Security determines your full retirement age, or the age at which you will claim your full scheduled benefits, according to your birthday. Currently that age ranges from 65 to 67 years old. However, you can claim benefits as early as age 62, if you’re willing to accept a check that is about 25 percent smaller. Sometimes an early retirement is necessary, but if you can wait, you will enjoy your full benefit checks.

Wait a bit longer. Just as claiming benefits early will net you a smaller check, delaying your claim can mean a larger one. For each year that you wait, beyond your full retirement age, you will earn a monthly check that is about 8 percent larger. But since there’s no benefit to waiting beyond age 70, definitely file for your benefits by this birthday.

Move to a retiree-friendly state. Some states tax Social Security benefits, so if your overall income puts you at risk, you might consider a move to a more retiree-friendly state.

Avoid taxes. Social Security benefits can be taxed, according to a formula which includes your taxable income each year. Working with a financial advisor can help you to identify whether you’re at risk for these taxes. Let’s discuss this at our next meeting, and we can help you identify retirement income strategies to mitigate this risk.