Have you gotten a copy of your Social Security Statement recently? If so, did you check your earnings record when you looked at your Statement?
If you haven’t recently received a copy of your Social Security Statement, it might be because Social Security hasn’t been sending them out annually to all wage earners as they had in the past.
Over the last several years the Social Security Administration has changed who it sends the Statement to several times due to budgetary issues. Currently, they only send Social Security Statements to those wage earners who are over 60 and are not yet collecting Social Security benefits. I bet that most readers of this article do not fall within that rather small group.
There is, however, a Social Security Statement just waiting for you at the Social Security website. Set up a “mySocialSecurity” account and you will be able to access your statement at any time. In addition, if you have an account, you will be notified when your Social Security Statement has been updated, generally three months before your birthday month.
Your Statement will contain benefit estimates for age 62, your full retirement age, and age 70. This article will not go into how accurate those estimates are; that’s a topic for another time.
What we’re going to look at is how important it is to check your earnings record for errors. According to Social Security, if an employer did not properly report just one year of your work earnings, your future benefit payments could be close to $100 per month less than they should be. Imagine what that would have done to the civilian Navy employee who told me that his earnings record had 20 years of zero earnings – all during the time he was working for the Navy!
Social Security claims to accurately post “more than 98%” of earnings records with no problem. If they accurately posted 98.5% of the 236 million wage reports sent in by employers, there would still be 3,540,000 inaccurate posts. This also doesn’t include errors made by employers (like the Navy above) and employers that do not send in reports.
What if you find an error? Social Security will work with you to correct your earnings record, though it might take a while. You will want to find proof of your earnings for the years where there are errors. You could use:
- A Form W-2;
- A federal or state income tax return;
- A leave and earnings statement; or
- Records you have kept.
If you don’t have any written or electronic documents, the following facts could help in correcting your record:
- Where you worked;
- The name of your employer;
- The dates you worked;
- How much you earned; and
- The name and Social Security number you used when you worked (if different from today).
It’s easier to correct errors if you find them early. So don’t delay – look at your Social Security Statement today.