Ever wonder what happened to those nifty Social Security statements we all used to get in the mail? I did too. I received my Social Security statement in the mail in 2011, but stopped receiving it the following year. It turns out that the Social Security Administration (SSA) temporarily stopped sending paper statements in early 2011 before restoring them due to complaints, in a cost cutting move (to save over $70 million annually).
To replace the paper statements, a new SSA website was launched that allows you to access your Social Security statement online. A Social Security account is one of the few government accounts everyone should create as there are a number of helpful benefits to doing so.
To retrieve your Social Security statement online, the process is pretty simple:
- Go to the new Social Security statement website.
- Create a login. You will have to answer a number of security questions to verify your identity, including some information included on your Experian credit report.
- View your statement.
The SSA has beefed up what is included in the statement from what was originally there. You can now find:
- Estimates of the retirement and disability benefits you may receive, based on when you retire
- Estimates of benefits your family may get when you receive Social Security or die
- A list of your annual and lifetime earnings according to Social Security’s records
- The estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid
- Information about qualifying and signing up for Medicare
- The opportunity to apply online for retirement and disability benefits
- An option to print or save your full Social Security Statement
Why Bother Accessing your Social Security Statement Online?
- Remedy errors: Much like with credit reports, you should check your social security statement annually to make sure the correct earning totals are reported. If your earnings are under-reported, you will receive less than you paid in when you do start claiming. If your earnings are reported incorrectly, call 1-800-772-1213 to report the error.
- Get an Overview of your Earnings: The greatest benefit of Social Security Statements, in my opinion, is being able to see your historical earnings. This is represented by the “Taxed Medicare Earnings” column, if you’ve earned over the maximum payroll tax income level (which is annually adjusted to inflation).
- Get an Idea of what Might be there in Retirement (and then get let down, many years later): Without an overhaul, Social Security benefits will be under-funded for most Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Zers. You can get a good idea of what kind of benefits you may receive in retirement, but the reality is you probably will not get all of it. Social Security payouts should be looked at as bonus retirement money only, but they are still a piece of the long-term retirement puzzle for many people.
Important Note on Social Security Statement Earnings Estimates: your earnings are based on the top 35 years of earnings. If you have fewer than 35 years of earnings, each year with no earnings will be factored in at zero. You can increase your benefit by replacing those zero years, say, by working longer, even if it’s just part-time. No low-earning year will replace a higher-earning year. The benefit isn’t based on 35 consecutive years of work, but the highest-earning 35 years.
It’s been reported that the Social Security Administration has started mailing paper statements to those over age 60 again (turns out the interwebs was too complicated for some older folk, understandably).
Update: check out my comprehensive Social Security overview for everything you’d want to learn about Social Security.
Social Security Statement Discussion:
- Have you viewed your Social Security Statement Online yet?
- Do you miss the paper statements for any reason?