The average Social Security retirement benefit in 2024 is $1,906 per month, which works out to $22,872 per year. Ideally, that money serves as a supplement to other sources of retirement income, like 401(k) withdrawals and dividends. But is it possible to survive on Social Security alone in 2024?

Social Security is only intended to replace about 40% of income for the average worker. But millions of retirees rely on Social Security for the majority, if not all of their income. Read on to learn about how many seniors are surviving on Social Security alone, as well as some options if you’re heading into retirement years without much of a nest egg.

Is it possible to live on Social Security alone?

Living on Social Security alone isn’t easy, but it’s the reality for many seniors in America. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, roughly 40% of Americans ages 65 and older rely on Social Security for at least half of their incomes. For about one in seven people 65 and older, benefits account for at least 90% of their income.

Millions of workers who aren’t yet retired could wind up relying on Social Security as their primary income source. Recent research by The Motley Fool found that 25% of workers have no retirement savings.

Heading into retirement with little savings is risky. Though Social Security provides a vital safety net, cost-of-living adjustments generally don’t keep pace with the actual living cost increases seniors face each year. That’s because the costs of things that retirees spend large amounts on, like healthcare and housing, tend to rise at a faster rate than overall inflation.

How to boost your future Social Security benefit

If you’re facing retirement without much in savings, it’s essential to maximize your future Social Security checks. Essentially, your benefit is based on how much you paid in, so working longer can also boost your benefit. If you’re able to log a few extra years of work, it’s possible that you can also build some savings. A nest egg of any size will make retirement a lot more comfortable.

Delaying benefits for as long as possible is usually a good strategy. You can claim benefits as early as 62, but you don’t become eligible for your full benefit until full retirement age, which is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later. If you wait even longer, you can earn 8% delayed retirement credits and reach your maximum benefit at age 70. Starting Social Security at 70 instead of 62 can increase your monthly checks by about 77%.

Benefits are based on your 35 highest-earning years, so claiming before you hit the 35-year mark will reduce your checks. However, because benefits are based on your earnings, working more than 35 years can pay off if you can replace some lower-earning years with higher-earning ones.

Finally, if you have a limited work history but are married (or were married) to someone who earned significantly more than you, it’s possible that you’d get more money through spousal benefits or survivor benefits.

What to do if your retirement funds are lacking

If you’re still working, it’s possible to build some savings before you retire. Aim to contribute at least enough to get your employer’s match if your company offers a 401(k) or a similar retirement plan. But even if your company doesn’t sponsor a retirement plan, consider opening a Roth IRA. Though you won’t get an upfront tax break for contributions, your retirement withdrawals are tax-free if you adhere to certain rules.

Some other ways to supplement your Social Security:

Also, if you expect to rely primarily on Social Security, make it your mission to pay off debt before you retire. Surviving on your Social Security check is a lot easier if you’re not paying off a mortgage, car, or credit card.

Living on Social Security alone in 2024 is possible — after all, millions of Americans do it. But it’s not ideal, and Social Security wasn’t designed to be the sole source of retirement income. If you’re still able to work and can set aside some money, doing so will make your retirement years a lot more pleasant.