Social Security Goes Digital

By: Mary E. McCraw, CFP®

You may remember that the Social Security Administration suspended mailing annual statements to all workers in April 2011 in an effort to cut costs. In February 2012, mailings were resumed for workers age 60 and older. However, that left a gap of information for workers under age 60.

The annual statements provide the following important pieces of information:

  • Estimated retirement benefits, provided for 3 ages: age 62, full retirement age and age 70
  • Estimated benefits for Disability
  • Estimated benefits for Survivors
  • Annual earnings reported to social security

The good news is that as of May 2012, workers age 18 and older can access that same Social Security Statement online at at any time during the year. To access the personalized statement, it is necessary to establish a “My Social Security” account. To provide security of personal information, there are two levels of verification used in the process. You will first need to provide personal information that matches what is on file with Social Security. After identity is verified with this information, there is a second set of questions to answer based on information on file with the credit reporting agency Experian.

If you are nearing retirement, it is nice to see what your “projected” benefits are at a given point in time. There is also information available on the website about Social Security’s future and there projection of the ability to pay benefits in the future. For younger folks with kids, the survivor benefits are helpful in determining the amount of life insurance needed on either parent. If there are errors in your earnings history, these estimates will be impacted and it is important to contact social security to fix the error.

I have personally set up an account and found the process went very smoothly. If you are unable to verify your identity through the online system, you do have the option to create an account at a local Social Security office or request a paper statement.

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