It’s the time of year when we begin the process of closing out one year and analyzing changes for the next. Is checking your Social Security statement one of those priorities? It should be!! The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides personalized statements to assist all Americans age 18 and older to understand the benefits that Social Security offers. Your statement contains a wealth of helpful information with a detailed record of your earnings, estimates of retirement, disability, and survivor benefits — necessary information to help you plan for your financial future.
The first step, look at a copy of your Social Security Statement. It’s an easy and free process you can do online at any time by creating a “My Social Security” account at the SSA’s website, ssa.gov/myaccount. I created my online account with SSA several years ago and I can easily log in and check my current information. If you are not registered online yet and are not receiving benefits the SSA will mail you a statement every year, beginning at age 60. You can also order a replacement card if yours has been lost and many other helpful tasks you may need.
Looking at your benefit estimates is one of the biggest reasons you should check each year. Your statement tells you whether you’ve earned enough credits by working and paying Social Security taxes to qualify for retirement and disability benefits and, if you qualify, how much you might receive. Generally, retirement benefits are projected for up to nine claiming ages. Early (age 62), full (ages 66 to 67), and late (age 70).
The amounts listed are strictly estimates based on your average earnings in the past and a projection of your future earnings. The actual benefits you receive may be different as earnings increase or decrease in the future.
Additional factors such as cost-of-living increases, the additional income you receive, and current laws may affect your benefit amounts.
The next area you want to look at in your statement is the year-by-year record of your earnings. This record is updated when your employer reports your earnings (or if you’re self-employed when you report your earnings). Earnings are generally reported annually, so your most recent earnings may not yet be on your statement.
Because Social Security benefits are based on average lifetime earnings, it’s important to make sure your earnings have been reported correctly. Earlier this year I noticed 2019 was completely missing from my statement. After speaking with an SSA expert I discovered it was easily correctable by supplying a W-2 copy from the missing year. A good double-check is to compare your earnings record against past tax returns or W-2s. If you find errors, let the Social Security Administration know right away by calling the local office in your area.
Taking care of all the money areas of your life is part of keeping your financial house in order. Social Security is but a small part of your house!
The 2022 calendar is taking shape with more one-to-one coaching sessions available along with webinars, online and in-person courses. Be sure to share this newsletter with others, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Instagram or Facebook for more ways to be confident with your money.