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Understanding Your Online Social Security Benefits Statement

Jul 4, 2012
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You can now check your Social Security statement online, using a new tool developed by the federal government to replace the paper statements that have been mailed to about 150 million workers over age 25 each year since 1999.

The paper mailings were suspended last year for workers under age 60 in a money-saving move. The Social Security Administration had been spending about $70 million a year on the mailings.

How to Register for Online Social Security Statements

To check your statement, visit the Social Security website and complete the registration process. To do this, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old and have your Social Security number, a valid e-mail address and a U.S. mailing address.

You’ll also need to answer some security questions designed to make sure you are who you say you are. Social Security works with credit bureau Experian on verification and the questions are likely to relate matters such as license numbers of vehicles you own or owned, and names of lenders who have financed auto or home loans for you.

Navigating the Social Security Website

Once you’ve created your account, you’ll be taken to a page with details of your Social Security records, including a year-by-year record of your lifetime earnings, as reported to the Internal Revenue Service, and an estimate of the benefits you have coming from Social Security.

Again, these numbers are only estimates. The only way to find out for sure what Social Security will pay is to actually apply for benefits. But these numbers are a good indication of what you can expect, assuming your earnings don’t change dramatically between now and whenever you apply for benefits.

The online statements have the same information that you received with the paper statements. They give estimated monthly dollar amounts of what you are eligible for, depending on your age at retirement. And they include disability benefits, as well as benefits that would be paid to surviving spouses and children if you pass away before retiring.

Social Security recommends that you check the online statement annually and make sure the earnings records are accurate. You should also update your retirement plan to reflect any changes in the benefits you can expect. The information on benefits can be used to decide when you should retire, as well as how much income, if any, you’ll need from other sources after retirement.

Other Helpful Information

Other information available at the site includes tips for those age 55 and older who are thinking about retiring, tools for applying for retirement and disability benefits online and general information about Social Security. You can also print out a copy of your Social Security statement that looks very much like the paper one you used to get in the mail.

You can still request that Social Security mail you a paper statement, which may be necessary for people who can’t, for one reason or another, use the online tool. For instance, the Social Security Administration notes, some people may not be able to answer the security questions based on Experian’s profile.

You also may not be able to register if the identifying information you supply does not match your Social Security records. If this happens, you can visit your local Social Security office and present proof of identity. Then, you’ll be able to set up an account and see your information online.

Workers over age 60 will still get their annual paper statements mailed to them. The Social Security Administration suspended all automatic statement mailings in mid-2011, then re-started the mailings to over-60 workers in early 2012. Workers over the age of 60 who are getting paper statements can also sign up to view their statements online just like younger workers.

 ”Understanding Your Online Social Security Benefits Statement” was written by Mark Henricks. 

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on your taxes, your investments, the law or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

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