Benefit: Social security uses your highest thirty-five years of work history to calculate your social security retirement benefit. The highest thirty-five are calculated after each year of earnings has been indexed, or adjusted, based on inflation. Think of this calculation like an average; if you have a zero as one of the numbers, it will pull the average down. To increase your social security benefits make sure you have a full 35 years of work history.
Works if: You have less than 35 years of work history, or you have many low earning years listed in your 35 years, you are now earning more, and you can keep working so that some of your higher earning years will bump some of your lower earning years out of the top 35.
If you have less than thirty-five years of work history, one of the simplest things you can do to increase your social security benefit is to work. Having at least some earnings in each of those thirty-five years is better than having no earnings.
Learn more: For a detailed step-by-step guide on how your Social Security benefits are calculated and how extra years of earnings might affect your benefits see How to Calculate Your Social Security Benefits.
Social security also has several benefit calculators you can use to help you estimate your potential benefits. If you use their detailed calculator, which is a program you actually download onto your computer, then you can input your year-by-year earnings from your social security statement; then project earnings for future years to see if working longer or earning more would increase your social security benefits.