Understanding Your Social Security Benefit Statement
The Social Security Administration (SSA) mails estimated benefit statements to workers of various ages. These estimates are for workers who don't yet receive Social Security benefits. They also haven't registered for an online "my Social Security" account.
It's important that you carefully review your Social Security statement. Your benefit statement contains information to make financial decisions for retirement planning. But, unfortunately, it may contain errors. Read on for tips to help you better understand your Social Security benefit statement.
What Your Statement Contains
Your Social Security benefit statement includes two primary components:
- An estimate of benefits you and your family members, including minor children, may be eligible for now and in the future
- Your earnings record and an estimate of how much you and your employer paid in Social Security taxes
Retirement Benefits Estimate
The closer to retirement you are, the more accurate the estimated monthly benefits. Your monthly payment amount is determined when you apply for benefits. This amount may differ from the statement's estimate if your earnings have increased or decreased.
The first page of the Social Security statement contains your estimated retirement benefit between early and full retirement age. You will reach full retirement age between 66 and 67 and can start collecting full benefits. Your full retirement age depends upon your date of birth.
Retirement benefit estimates are based on average earnings over your working lifetime. You need enough credits (40) to get Social Security retirement benefits. You earn credits by paying Social Security and Medicare taxes throughout your career. Page 1 tells you if you have enough credits for retirement benefits.
The statement also tells you whether you have enough credits for Social Security disability benefits for you or your beneficiaries. These apply if you're unable to work due to a health impairment. Page 1 also discusses potential survivor benefits for your surviving spouse or child.
Finally, Page 1 shows whether you have enough credits to receive Medicare benefits. You also receive cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments each year. For example, the COLA for Social Security retirement and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is 8.7% in 2023.
Page 2 of the benefit statement provides your complete lifetime earnings history. This includes the amount of Social Security taxes you've paid each year. In addition, Page 2 summarizes Social Security eligibility rules for retirement, disability, family, and survivor benefits.
Page 2 also contains descriptions of earnings that can reduce or eliminate your Social Security benefits. This includes pensions from work not covered by Social Security. You may find your Social Security retirement benefits reduced if you retire before you reach full retirement age. Similarly, your benefits may be reduced if you seek early Social Security benefits and continue to work and make more than the yearly limit. This reduction occurs even if you're self-employed.
Requesting Your Statement
You don't have to wait to receive your statement in the mail. The Social Security Administration has made it easy for you to receive a copy of your benefit statement:
- Create a my Social Security account and review your statement through SSA's online services.
- Download, complete, and mail the Social Security statement request form.
- Contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office.
Correcting Errors on Your Statement
You should verify the information found in your Social Security benefit statement. This includes your Social Security number, name, and earnings report. Mistakes may prevent you from receiving your full benefit amount.
If you find errors in your statement, the Social Security Administration advises that you contact the agency at 1-800-772-1213. If you discover earnings missing from your record, you'll need proof, which may include:
- W-2 form
- Tax return
- A wage stub or pay slip
- Your wage records
Your financial future as a retiree depends, in part, on Social Security benefit payments. A qualified attorney can help you with financial planning and let you know if your retirement income is sufficient to live a comfortable life after you stop working.
If you need more information, the SSA recommends you go to ssa.gov for help first. You should review your Social Security statement carefully. For legal assistance, you may contact a Social Security attorney.
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Contact a qualified social security lawyer to assist in your social security disability or retirement benefits issue.