Why You Should Create a "My Social Security Account"
Checking your official Social Security statement every year is a smart move to make sure your posted earnings are correct and ensure you get the benefits you are entitled to. Many Americans do not take this precaution. In fact, most U.S. workers have never created a digital "my Social Security account" to access their statement information. Here is what you should know.
In 2017, as a cost cutting measure, the Social Security Administration stopped mailing paper Social Security statements to everyone under age 60.
The only people who still get statements in the mail are those over age 60 who are not yet getting benefits and who have not set up an online account. Paper statements, however, are still available upon request to anyone who submits Form SSA-7004.
If you have not done so, you should create a "my Social Security account." This account will give you instant access to your personal Social Security statements. You can check your earning record and get estimates of your future retirement benefits at full retirement age, as well as at age 62 and age 70. Your statements will also let you know how much you would qualify for if you become disabled and how much your family members could receive in survivors benefits when you die.
How to Create an Account
To create a "my Social Security account," go to SSA.gov/myaccount. You will be asked to enter your Social Security number and birth date. You will also be prompted to answer a series of multiple-choice questions that might include inquiries about financial products you own and previous addresses to confirm your identity. Then you will receive a code either by email or text, which you will enter online to complete the process.
If you have a problem creating an online account, call 800-772-1213. After you establish an account, you will get an annual email reminder to log on and review your statement.
If you have a security freeze on your credit report to help ward off fraud, you must lift it temporarily to set up your online Social Security account. Specifically, you will need to thaw the freeze at Equifax, the company the Social Security Administration currently uses to help verify users' identities.
Creating an online account is also a good idea to prevent someone else from fraudulently creating one first and using it to steal benefit payments in the future. Given the number of security breaches in recent years, it is possible someone may be able to illegally obtain your sensitive personal information, like your Social Security number, and use it to set up an account in your name.
Once you get access to your statement, compare the earnings listed on your statement with your own tax records or W-2 statements. You must correct errors within 3 years, 3 months and 15 days following the year of the mistake. If you happen to spot a discrepancy within that timeframe, call 800-772-1213 to report the error. Some corrections can be made over the phone. You may need to schedule an appointment and visit your local branch with copies of your W-2 forms or tax returns to prove the mistake, or you can mail it in.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.