August 24, 2012
Until last year, Social Security sent taxpayers an annual personalized statement showing a complete record of their taxable earnings as well as estimated retirement, disability and survivor benefits based on those earnings. Unfortunately, budget constraints brought put an end to those yearly mailings.
But there's good news: Social Security has resumed mailing paper statements to workers 60 and older who aren't already receiving benefits. And, they recently launched a new Social Security Statement tool that allows you to access the same information online.
Once you've created an account, you can log in anytime and:
To create your online account, go to www.ssa.gov/mystatement and follow the directions. You must have a valid email address, Social Security number, U.S. mailing address and be at least age 18.
You'll need to verify your identity by providing personal information (birth date, Social Security number, current address, etc.) and answering several questions whose answers only you should know. Social Security contracts with credit bureau Experian to design these questions based on their records about your credit history.
Once your identity has been verified, you can create a password-protected account. Social Security emphasizes that you may sign into or create an account to access only your own information. Unauthorized use could subject you to criminal and/or civil penalties.
It's important to review your Social Security statement at least annually to ensure your on-file information is correct. For example, make sure that your taxable earnings have been reported correctly by your employer – or you, if self-employed. Otherwise, when Social Security calculates your benefits at retirement, disability or death, you could be shortchanged; or, if your earnings were over-reported, you could end up owing the government money.
If you spot any errors, contact Social Security at 800-772-1213, or visit your local office. You'll need copies of your W-2 form or tax return for any impacted years.
Another valuable piece of information found in your statement is an estimate of what your retirement benefit will be at age 62, at full retirement age and at age 70. Use those numbers to start estimating your retirement needs. These online calculators can help:
Bottom line: Understand what Social Security benefits will be available to you and how much more you'll need to save in order to have a comfortable retirement.
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