Remember seeing those paper statements from Social Security each year informing you of your estimated benefits? Well you haven’t received them for a while because it was so costly, about $80 million per year, for the Social Security Adminstration. The SSA is now reinstating the deliveries (starting this September), but is sending just one statement every five years.
Regular statements or not, it is highly recommended that you login to the Social Security website, ssa.gov. The number one reason is to periodically verify that your earnings record is accurate. The SSA can make mistakes just as any other large business or organization can.
In calculating your benefit they take the best 35 years of earned income. Chances of an error may be small (less than 10% hopefully) but the chances that the error is in our favor are probably much smaller! It is in our best interest to check the information for accuracy.
The second reason is, that while the five-year statement is dandy, you are only permitted 3years, 3 months and 15 days to go back and ask to correct any errors. If you rely solely on the paper statement to check your earnings history, you may miss the window of opportunity to fix mistakes.
You’ll likely need some documentation to fix any errors, so having tax returns or W-2’s is important. Take a look back as far as you reasonably can. Then, start an annual habit (around tax time perhaps) to check each year.
For those who may not know, taking Social Security before your Full Retirement Age (used to be age 65 for everyone, but for many is now 66-plus) lowers the amount you are eligible to receive. If you file at age 62 you get only 75% of the amount you would at full retirement age.
When to file and collect Social Security is not a simple question. Failure to plan the best strategy for you could mean forgoing tens of thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands) of dollars in extra payments over your lifetime.
Login to ssa.gov. The website is easy to maneuver and one can easily access all the information from the paper statement. Check your information for accuracy. Print a statement and make an appointment with your financial planner to evaluate when you should consider taking benefits.