- Bargaineering - http://www.bargaineering.com/articles -

Reading Your Social Security Statement

For years, I would receive a Social Security statement. This statement contains information about how much money you’ve earned (and contributed to the Social Security program), as well as information about your estimated benefits later on, when you can begin taking Social Security payments.

Recently, the Social Security Administration began doing away with the paper statements and started offering statements online [3]. It’s now possible to use the Internet to get access to your Social Security statement. This is convenient, because it makes it possible to access your information anytime. You have to create an account with the site, but once that’s done, you have access to your Social Security statement, as well as access to information about taking benefits. You can even apply online for retirement and disability benefits.

What’s in Your Social Security Statement?

For the most part, your Social Security statement is fairly basic. You need to consider your benefits, as well as review your earnings record. The two main items on your Social Security statement include:

  1. Benefits: This section is regularly updated according to how much money you have contributed over your lifetime, as well as the current law. You will find information about how much money you can expect to receive. You need a certain number of “credits” to qualify for retirement benefits [4], and the number you have is listed in this section. You can also see how much of a disability payment you are eligible, as well as how much your family members could expect to receive if you were to die.
  2. Earnings report: You will see how much you earned each year, as well as an estimate of how much money you’ve paid into the Social Security and Medicare programs. Your earnings record should be carefully reviewed for inaccuracies. If the number is too low, you could miss out on benefits down the road. If the number is too high, that could be an indication that your identity has been compromised and someone else is using your Social Security number.

Checking the accuracy of your statement is important. If there is something wrong, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. You want to clear things up as quickly as possible. It’s much easier to fix problems now, than to try and get the full amount of benefits you are owed once retirement hits. It’s also important to clear up mistakes about how much ou have earned. While it might be nice to think that someone using your Social Security number [5] could result in increased benefits for you, it could also mean problems with the IRS if it looks like you haven’t been paying income tax because the person who stole your number isn’t paying those taxes.

It doesn’t take very long to review your Social Security statement. However, it’s a good idea to do so. It can alert you to identity theft, as well as help you plan for the future when it comes to a successful retirement. Read over your statement when it arrives. And, if you are able to access the statement online, you can sign up for the proper account.

(Photo: DonkeyHotey [6])