There’s been a lot in the news about the recently released Social Security Trustees’ Report – It tells us that the trust fund will be depleted one year prior to what last year’s report estimated. Given that a year has passed since 2020, that means we are two years closer to Social Security’s insolvency than we were a year ago. Most financial writers tell us not to worry too much because they expect those who are already retired and those within five to ten years of Social Security eligibility to not be affected by any changes that might happen.
Your Social Security Statement
How do you know how much (under current assumptions) you will receive from Social Security? Your Social Security Statement will tell you. Even if you’re nowhere near retirement, it’s helpful to know what to expect from Social Security.
Social Security still sends out Social Security Statements to a small segment of the workforce, but most workers under age 60 do not automatically receive a statement. This is where a mySocialSecurity account comes into play.
Establish a my Social Security Account
When you’ve established your account (easy to do on the Social Security website), you will receive an annual notice from Social Security when your statement has been updated and is ready to view (generally three months prior to the month of your birthday). Of course, once you have an account, you can look at your statement at any time.
In order to set up a my Social Security account, go to https://www.ssa.gov and click on “SIGN IN/UP” which will be in the upper right of the page. That’ll take you to a page with three choices and you will select “my Social Security”. Then you end up on a page where you can begin setting up your account.
The process is similar to that you would follow in setting up any online account. Please note that these instructions are from 2021 and, if you’re reading this article at a later date, things may have changed.
What Can You Find on Your Social Security Statement?
The Social Security Statement will give you estimates of future Social Security retirement benefits at three milestones:
- when you’re 62;
- when you have reached your Full Retirement Age; and
- when you reach the age of 70.
These estimates are based on the most recent income data that Social Security has on you and; they assume that you will continue working, earning your most recent salary, until the specified ages.
If you were going to stop working at age 62, but not apply for your benefit until age 70, your benefit would not be as high as what the estimate tells you (at least for the first year, or until Social Security uses $0 as your annual earnings for future statements). Social Security recently announced that they will be switching to a statement that will estimate how much you would be entitled to at any age between 62 and 70.
Your statement also contains your earnings record. It should have the annual amount on which you paid Social Security payroll taxes for each year you have been in the workforce. Check the earnings record for accuracy and, if there are problems, contact Social Security to get them corrected. A couple of years ago, Social Security admitted to making mistakes about 2% of the time.
Other Account Benefits
Generally, when I go online to my MSS account, all I do is look at the Social Security statement, but I could do more. I could:
- Get a benefits verification letter (sometimes needed if applying for a mortgage or other credit);
- Change my address or phone number. That’s important if you move after retirement; you want to be sure that SSA sends your annual form 1099 to the correct address.
- Set up or change your direct deposit.
We make better decisions when we have accurate information. Sigh up for mySocialSecurity so that you can have the most current information on this important benefit.