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Working Guide to Understanding Your Social Security Benefit Statement

If you plan to take benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), it is recommended that you find, read, and understand your Social Security Statement. This report by the SSA summarizes information about an individual’s lifetime earnings record and how much they or their family would receive in disability, survivor, or retirement benefits. It‘s a highly useful tool that is recommended for anybody planning their retirement to make use of. 

This article offers a guide for how you can access and understand your Social Security Statement. 

1. Create a my Social Security Account

If you haven’t received a Social Security Statement in the mail, you can access yours online by creating a free my Social Security account. To create an account, you must be at least 18 years old. In addition to providing your social security number, a valid email address, and a U.S. mailing address, you’ll also choose a username and password. 

Note that you can’t open an account for another person or use anybody else’s personal information, which is a crime. 

2. View Your Social Security Statement

Once you’ve created and verified your account, you’ll receive an activation code. Entering this code is the final step for completing your account. Afterward, you’ll be able to log in to view your Social Security Statement. 

In addition to viewing your Social Security Statement, you can also use your my Social Security account to:

  • View how much you’ve paid in Social Security taxes
  • View how much you’ve paid in Medicare taxes
  • Verify your earnings record
  • Request a replacement Social Security card
  • Request a replacement Medicare card
  • Review Social Security payments 
  • Update personal information 

3. Review Each Section of the Social Security Statement

Once you’ve received your Social Security Statement, you’ll see that it includes the following information. 

  • Estimate of Social Security benefits based on your retirement age  - This is an estimate of how much you would receive in your monthly Social Security payment based on the year of retirement, which can be as early as age 62, and as late as age 70. The standard retirement age is referred to as your “full retirement age” (FRA) and is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later. Note that for those born before 1960, the FRA varies in accordance with a progressive schedule, with the earliest retirement age being 65 for those born in 1937 or earlier
  • Estimate of Social Security Disability benefits - If you qualify for disability benefits, you will receive an estimate of what your payment would be if you ever become disabled 
  • Estimate of Social Security family survivor benefits - If you qualify for survivor benefits, you will receive an estimate of what various family members will receive if you die, including your child, spouse at full retirement age, and spouse caring for your child
  • Taxes paid towards Social Security and Medicare - Your Statement will include an estimate of taxes you and your employers have paid for Social Security and Medicare

4. Review the Remaining Pages

In addition to the information above, your Social Security Statement will also include important information about Social Security, including tips for planning for retirement depending on where you are in your career and how working in retirement can affect your Social Security benefit. This information is highly useful and it’s a great idea to read it in order to have a better understanding of how Social Security works and how you can prepare for retirement. 

5. Look for Errors

Your Social Security benefits are decided on the basis of your earnings record, meaning it’s important that the SSA maintains records of your earnings. Check your Social Security Statement to confirm that your earnings have been properly reported. If you see an error, contact the Social Security Administration to get it corrected. You can verify your income by providing your W-2 or tax returns. 

Planning for Retirement 

It’s never too early to start planning for how you will support yourself in your retirement. Your Social Security Statement is one of several useful tools that you can use to help you in the process. It’s also a great idea to speak to a Social Security expert who can help advise you in light of your personal financial situation.

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