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5 Essential Facts on Your Social Security Statement

Whether you receive a paper statement or view it online, look for these important pieces of information.

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Studio shot of social security card and banknotes
Tetra Images/AlamyYour Social Security statement contains your earnings record, which lists the amount you made during each year you worked.
By Emily Brandon

The Social Security Administration is planning to resume mailing Social Security statements to some workers beginning in September. The paper statements will be sent to workers ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 who aren't registered for online statements or currently receiving benefits. These previously annual mailings to workers were suspended in April 2011 to save money, and the ability to view statements online was added in May 2012. Here's how to make the most of your benefit statement.

How much you will get when you retire. Most Social Security statements contain an estimate of how much you will receive if you sign up for Social Security at your full retirement age, age 62 and age 70. The full retirement age is 66 for most baby boomers and 67 for everyone born in 1960 or later. "The statement shows clearly that the longer you wait to claim benefits, the more you get each month," says Jonathan Peterson, executive communications director at AARP and author of "Social Security For Dummies." "Over time, the difference can be many thousands of dollars. So it makes a lot of sense to look at the projections at different retirement ages and think about what they mean for you." For example, a worker eligible for $1,680 a month at age 67 would get just $1,159 monthly at age 62, but his benefit would increase to $2,094 each month if he delays signing up until age 70. However, it's important to note that these benefit estimates assume Social Security law will remained unchanged and that you will continue to earn your current salary, both of which could change in the future. The statement will also let you know if you haven't yet worked long enough to qualify for benefits.

What happens if you become disabled. Social Security benefits aren't just for retirees. Your statement will also tell you the benefit amount you will be eligible for if you become disabled in the coming year.

What your family will get if you die. Social Security pays out benefits to families when a breadwinner passes away. Your dependent children and a spouse caring for those children will likely both be eligible for payments upon your death, and the amount they will get is on your statement. Your spouse may also be eligible for retirement benefits based on your work record, even if you die before retirement. A spouse or minor child may additionally be eligible for a one-time death benefit when you pass away.

Your earnings record. Your Social Security statement typically lists every year you have worked and how much you earned. "Sometimes your income does not get properly reported to Social Security," says Brian Vosberg, a certified financial planner and author of "The Complete Retiree's Guide to Social Security." "Checking annually will help guarantee accuracy." The 35 years in which you have the highest earnings are used to calculate your retirement payout.

Your Social Security and Medicare contributions. Under your earnings chart, the statement lists the total amount you have paid into Social Security and Medicare throughout your career. It's a good idea to double-check these amounts to make sure you are getting credit for your contributions. Workers are required to pay 6.2 percent of their pay into Social Security up to $117,000 and 1.45 percent of all earnings into Medicare in 2014, which employers match. Self-employed workers pay 12.4 percent of their earnings into Social Security and 2.9 percent into Medicare. And those who earn more than $200,000 ($250,000 for couples) pay an additional 0.9 percent in Medicare taxes.

Of course, you don't have to wait for your paper statement to arrive in the mail. Workers age 18 and older can view their Social Security statements online at any time, although you will need to verify your identity by answering questions about personal information to create an online account. "Set up your access like any other financial site, and check your Social Security data any time you want," says Andy Landis, author of "Social Security: The Inside Story." "I even have the SSA mobile app, just like mobile banking."

Emily Brandon is the senior editor for Retirement at U.S. News. You can contact her on Twitter @aiming2retire, circle her on Google Plus or email her at ebrandon@usnews.com.


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Valerie

What this article didn't mention (and should have) is that there are a lot of errors on those Social Security statements of benefits and earnings.

Everyone should make a habit of going over their SS statement with a fine tooth comb to make sure it is accurate. You only have two years to correct any mistakes you may find. After that two year period has passed, any incorrect info on your statement becomes part of your permanent record and you can't get it revised.

May 06 2014 at 6:18 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
thefacts22

Anybody with a calculator,can figure out that SS is a fraud,but it is the law and we have to pay into the Ponzi scheme,on top that they have been stealing from SS since day one,we the payers have to support for life those that do not work,no wonder it will bankrupt.Many of you read the news and know that the dollar is collapsing against most currencies,that USA credit will be downgraded "again" next year,as during the last 51/2 years we have borrowing massive amounts of money to keep feeding the jobless and increasing welfare 39%.Oba,s policies will take USA to a final collapse

May 06 2014 at 4:19 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
razov

The easiest way to make the Social Security & Medicare "trust" fund solvent in perpetuity is twofold:

1. Force Congress to invest the SS/Medicare surplus in real assets, and keep these programs separate from the annual appropriations that the Treasury must finance. That's right, sequester these funds from Congress's temptation to spend them. Sen. Daniel Moynahan warned about this dangerous practice 30 years ago.
2. Remove the limit on income subject to the withholding tax. This means millionaires and billionaires will pay an extra 6.2% of their gross above the $117,000 level. Why not, its a matter of fairness. I dare any wealthy executive or celebrity to explain how their lives will be financially burdened by paying an extra 6.2%

I have written my representative in Congress about this proposal. Let them take a vote on it, and see who sides with the average person and who defends the super rich.

RZ in CT

May 06 2014 at 1:40 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to razov's comment
kitharris1

not a bad plan in my book.

May 06 2014 at 1:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
toosmart4u

If you are on social security and medicare, or soon will be, thank a democrat. If you want to end these 2 fine programs vote republican. 1935 democrats passed social security against the wishes of the republicans who fought to stop the law. In 1968 democrats passed legislation for medicare, and again the republicans wanted nothing to do with it. So thank you democrats for my life style today. By the way I never drew an unemployment or welfare check all my working years.

May 06 2014 at 11:51 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

Social Security is a great thing and politicians should do everything in their power to save it and make it stronger. As it becomes harder to save with no returns from the banks, a seasaw market that is totally rigged, and massive inflation Americans need help. The government should subsidize tiny houses and tax the huge mansions. I am not against capitalism but the 50% or 99% just need a place to live that won't drive them into bankruptcy. Looks like we will have to go back to little house on the prairie. PS: send all the illegals back because there is no work for them. With droughts etc there will be no vegetables to pick

May 06 2014 at 10:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jpfmtka

I come from an extended family of democrats. None have ever taken a dime in government support and all of us have a million dollars or more in our self funded retirement accounts.

May 06 2014 at 10:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
progressivehoax

EvansomeyMac won't get one, they have suckled the Government teat their whole lives.

May 06 2014 at 8:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply