Last year, in an effort to cut costs, the Social Security Administration discontinued mailing paper statements showing your earnings history and estimated benefits. Many months later, statements are finally available online. Starting in May 2012, workers can go online to review their earnings history, benefit estimates, and other information about their Social Security benefits.
Up until last year, paper statements were mailed annually to individuals age 25 and older. While you can still request a paper statement, the SSA is trying to cut costs and is therefore encouraging you to take advantage of the online statements and other tools available.
You can view your annual statement online at www.ssa.gov. Just click on New: Get your Social Security statement online. You’ll need to create an account the first time you visit, but after that you will be able to view your statement at any time.
When you setup your account you will be asked to provide personal information to verify your identity. It’s similar to the process you go through when you request a credit report. In fact, the SSA partnered up with Experian (one of the three major credit reporting agencies) to provide financial information for verification purposes. While it may be a pain to answer all the questions, with all the fraud these days, I’m glad they are taking extra precautions with the security of these accounts.
Once your account is setup you’ll be able to access the following Information:
1. Lifetime Social Security earnings
2. Benefit estimates, including retirement, disability and family benefits
3. Social Security and Medicare taxes paid.
In addition, there are helpful tips for people close to retirement age.
It’s important to review your earnings history each year to make sure it’s accurate. Since your benefits are based on your highest 35 years of earnings you want to make sure they are reported correctly. It’s also important to review your projected benefits as you get close to retirement so you can make decisions about when to retire, when to apply for Social Security, etc.
It is recommended that you review your Social Security account once a year to check for errors.
Errors are most likely to occur when you change your name and didn’t report it to Social Security, but employers can also make errors on your W-2 that would result in your earnings being reported incorrectly (or not at all).
As always, when accessing personal information online, you should take precautions to safe-guard that information. Here are some tips to safely access your Social Security statement online:
1. Don’t use a public computer; if you don’t have a computer at home ask a friend or family member if you can use their computer instead of going to the library
2. Go directly to the Social Security website at www.ssa.gov. Social Security does not contact people via email so any emails received from Social Security should be deleted and you should never click on a link directing you to the SSA site, regardless of how legitimate it looks.
3. Create your account using a password that won’t be easy to guess (don’t use your child’s birth-date, your anniversary, or your pet’s name). Record the password in a safe place and don’t share it with anyone.
If you are unable to register for an account for some reason, you can request a paper statement or you can go to a local SSA office and they will help you get setup online. If you just prefer to receive paper statements it sounds like you can request to continue receiving your annual statement by mail. Certain people will still receive statements by mail including when you turn age 25 (this statement will include information on how to access your account online) and then again when you turn age 60 (to help you prepare for retirement).