Utilizing ‘my’ Social Security Account

Understanding your Social Security benefits is a Savvy use of your time. The Social Security Administration website can be a useful tool as you prepare for retirement. Beyond that, it can also serve as a useful tool during the period you spend in retirement.

Social Security Benefits

Previously, the Social Security Administration mailed paper statements to most worker aged 25 and older. However, these mailings were suspended in April 2011 to save money. Recently however, the Administration resumed mailing paper Social Security statements to some workers. The statements will be sent to workers every five years in the year they attain ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60, if they are not registered to receive online statements or already receiving benefits.

While it is reasonable to expect that the program will change over time, it is highly unlikely the program will be going away. Therefore, the likelihood that it will change is a good reason to use this tool as a means of staying on top of the changes and understanding the potential impacts to your retirement; and not waiting for a statement every five years. If you have not already done so, I highly recommend you visit the site and create a my Social Security account.

Can We Really Trust our Annual Social Security Benefit Estimate? [Nearly Retired]

How does a my Social Security account benefit you? It provides multiple capabilities if you are currently receiving Social Security benefits or have Medicare, including:

  • Receiving your Benefit Verification Letter
  • Checking your benefit and payment information
  • Checking your earnings record
  • Changing your address and phone number
  • Starting or changing the direct deposit of your benefit payment

And if you are not currently receiving benefits, you can:

  • Review estimates of  your retirement benefits
  • Review estimates of your disability benefits
  • Review estimates of your survivors benefits
  • Review estimates of your earnings record
  • Review the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you have paidMy SSA Account

The Social Security Administration makes it very easy to create your account online; I created mine in about 10 minutes. Easy, breezy, lemon-squeezy! As you might suspect, to create an account you must provide some personal information about yourself and give answers to some questions that only you are likely to know. Once  you have answered a few questions, you will create a username and password that you will allow you to access your online account.

How to Calculate Your Social Security Benefits [CBS News]

While your Social Security benefits should not be the centerpiece of your retirement portfolio; and it is more than likely that Social Security benefits will change over time – particularly for younger workers (e.g. Millennials) – they should be taken into account when developing a retirement plan and being aware of potential benefits is simply the Savvy thing to do.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.

16 Comments

  1. I always assume that when people say they’re pretty sure they’re going to get nothing out of Social Security because it’s going broke, they either (a) have it confused with Medicare which actually does need significant changes or (b) have let their laziness prevent them from taking the five minutes to look at actual numbers and are happy to borrow their opinions from other people.

    So for that reason, thank you for shedding light on just how easy it is to get started with these estimates.

    Of course, over-saving for retirement for any reason — including pretending Social Security won’t exist — is a good thing because it makes under-saving less likely. On the other hand, for those of us trying to fine-tune our pre-tax and Roth savings to minimize taxes in retirement, ignoring an income source is a good way to end up paying more taxes than you need to.

    Thanks again 🙂

    • The Social Security Administration really has done a good job of making it easy to view and understand your benefits; people simply need to take the time to do so. As you note, there is no doubt many people have a the sky is falling attitude with respect to Social Security pension benefits, when it really isn’t necessary. The savvy planner will take the time to review all of their potential sources of portfolio and passive income; and develop a comprehensive plan that takes each of those sources – including their Social Security pension benefits – into consideration. Thanks for dropping by, Mario.

  2. I didn’t know that there was a social security account online. I will have to set one up. Thanks for posting.

    • Yep, the Social Security Administration stopped sending out annual, paper, statements a few years ago. Now it is necessary to create an account online – which is more convenient anyway – to check on your estimated benefits.

  3. I’m a big fan of this site — glad you’re pointing it out to readers!

    It’s important to note that there’s more than one version of the SSN benefit calculator. For example if a reader happens to have earned income in non-SSN contributing job AND a ‘normal’ SSN contributing job, they have to use the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) calculator to get accurate numbers. The traditional estimator will over-estimate…

    A good friend of ours had a rude awakening when he filed for Social Security, because of WEP (which prompted me to write a post about it last year).

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jean. Great mention of the WEP calculator. I have gone ahead and included the link for it – Online WEP Calculator – here.

  4. I’m 25 years old and assume that I won’t get SS benefits when I retire. There’s no way the program can be sustained in it’s current form.

    • DC, Agreed that the program is not sustainable in its current form; however, I do believe changes will be made that will ensure Gen-Y members like yourself do get something. My guess is that the ultimate solution will involve a combination of adjusting the eligibility ages and reducing the benefit. For a Gen-Y member like yourself, my advice – not that anyone is asking – is to ensure the Social Security pension is not the centerpiece of your retirement portfolio and expect that whatever the projected benefits are now, they will be less when the time actually comes to retire.

  5. It is good to know what you have coming your way via social security. Just make sure this is not the only source of retirement income you are relying on.

    • “Just make sure this is not the only source of retirement income you are relying on.” Could not agree more. In fact, not only should it not be your only source it should not be the centerpiece. For financial planning, I only use 60% of my (and wife’s) projected benefits in my calculations as I suspect there may be changes by the time we are eligible for benefits. More importantly, our Social Security benefits are only two of a projected ten streams (sources) of retirement income. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. I shared this article on my Facebook page because it’s very important that we use our SS account in ways that benefit us both now and in the long run. I had no idea this useful tool existed.
    Thanks for writing this article!

    • Taz, Thanks for the share on Facebook. Until two years ago, the Social Security Administration would send out annual statements that contain a lot of the information discussed in the article. However, in an effort to save money and take advantage of existing technology, they have gone the ‘my’ account model. As I have state in the book and elsewhere, while I believe there will be changes to Social Security benefits, I do not believe the program is going away. Therefore, it really is in an individual’s best interest to be aware of the anticipated benefits and incorporate that information into their retirement planning.

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