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Keeping Tabs on Your Social Security Benefits

Posted: April 28, 2015

Your retirement may be decades away or around the corner. Regardless, the financial health of retirement income is a key concern for most and usually includes benefits earned while working in positions covered by Social Security.

To keep abreast of what your benefits will likely be when you reach certain milestone ages, Social Security provides a statement that lists your earnings history by year and likely benefits under various scenarios. The statement, available for those 18 or older, is a tool that can help you plan for your financial future.  It can also be used as a teaching tool for younger family members to show them how your earnings increased over time as you gained more work experience.

You can access your annual statement online anytime by creating an account on the Social Security website (www.ssa.gov) using the mySocialSecurity button. You can print your statement and store for reference as needed or download it to your computer for storage in a retirement folder.  Explore your online account to see how much you and your employers have paid in Social Security and Medicare taxes.  In addition to having access to this statement for financial planning purposes, the online version may be used in some instances to verify your name and number as it appears in the Social Security system.  Say, for instance you forget to take your Social Security card with you for an important appointment where the card is needed. If you have access to the Internet, the online account may be an acceptable form of verification for your number. Only the last four digits of your number appear on the statement.

At a minimum, you should review your Social Security Statement yearly to verify that the earnings recorded for the past year are accurate.  If recorded earnings are not correct, generally you have three years, three months and 15 days from end of the tax year earnings are recorded to correct them. If you verify your earnings about the same time each year (i.e., on a birthday) it may become a routine you find easy to maintain.

If you cannot create your online account after three attempts, you should go to the nearest Social Security office.  There could be a problem with your personal data in the system, for example, the wrong birthdate.  If you are hesitant to create and access your Social Security account online, statements will be mailed to workers attaining ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 who are not receiving Social Security benefits and who are not registered for a my Social Security account. The statement will arrive in the mail about 3 months before your birthday. After age 60, you will receive a statement every year.

Finally, healthy lifestyles, including a healthy retirement, is dependent on financial resources.  Keep tabs on your potential retirement income by checking your Social Security statement annually.

Contact Information

Cathy F. Bowen
  • Professor of Agricultural and Extension Education
Phone: 814-863-7870