If you go back a few years, you may remember that every year, about three months before your birthday, you received an earnings and benefits statement from the Social Security Administration providing you with a history of your earnings and projected benefits. Then, along came a recession and the accompanying budget cuts and the mailing out of the statements stopped, except for workers age 60 and over.
The earnings and benefits statements provided a valuable annual reminder of what you can expect to receive and how benefits are calculated. It also prompts us all to make Social Security part of our long-range retirement plans.
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New Retirement Tool Now Available – On May 1st, Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced that an online version of the Social Security Statement is now available at the Social Security Website. The new online statement provides eligible workers with secure and convenient access to their Social Security earnings and benefits information. The online statement also provides estimates for disability and survivors benefits, making the statement an important financial planning tool. People should get in the habit of checking their online statement each year, around their birthday.
In addition to helping with financial planning, the online statement also provides workers a convenient way to determine whether their earnings are accurately posted to their Social Security records. This feature is important because Social Security benefits are based on average earnings over a person’s lifetime. If the earnings information is not accurate, the person may not receive all the benefits to which he or she is entitled. The online statement also provides the opportunity to save or print the personalized statement for financial planning discussions with family or a financial planner.
To get a personalized online statement, people age 18 and older must be able to provide information about themselves that matches information already on file with Social Security. In addition, Social Security uses Experian, an external authentication service provider, for additional verification. People must provide their identifying information and answer security questions in order to pass this verification. Social Security will not share a person’s Social Security number with Experian, but the identity check is an important part of this new, robust verification process.
Once verified, people will create a “My Social Security” account with a unique user name and password to access their online statement. In addition, the portal also includes links to information about other online services, such as applications for retirement, disability, and Medicare.
It is important to note, however, that Social Security anticipates some members of the public will not be able to be verified through this process. Some people may not correctly answer the security questions based on information on file with Experian, and others may supply identifying information that does not match their Social Security records. In instances where this occurs, people will have the option to request that a hard copy of their Social Security Statement be mailed to them. People who cannot verify online initially also may visit their local Social Security office and present an identity document in order to create an account and gain access to the online version of the statement.
In February 2012, Social Security resumed mailing paper statements to workers age 60 and older if they are not already receiving Social Security benefits. Later this year, the agency plans to mail paper statements to workers in the year they reach age 25. For more information about the new online statement, please go to www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement.