"My Birthday's in Three Months — Where's My Social Security Statement?"

Up until recently, the Social Security Administration (SSA) mailed statements each year detailing how much money a worker had made in the previous 12 months, and projecting the dollar amount of the benefit they would receive when it was time to start collecting Social Security, as well as their Medicare eligibility.

Senior man looking into empty mailbox

However, that was a lot of postage and paper, reasoned the SSA, so several years ago they stopped mailing statements to people younger than 60, instead inviting them to the mySocialSecurity online portal (www.ssa.gov/myaccount). People older than 60 still receive a mailed statement — unless they have signed up for a mySocialSecurity account, in which case it's expected that they also will see their statement online.

Unfortunately, reports the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, many people have failed to set up an account, so they may be clueless when it comes to their projected Social Security benefit! The SSA used to mail 155 million statements each year; now they send only 10% of that. Yet only 38 million people have set up a mySocialSecurity account. And a lot of those who have done so are failing to access their accounts regularly.

So, don't have your head in the sand about your Social Security account. Sign up for mySocialSecurity, and make a note on the calendar to take a peek each year, three months before your birthday … or whenever else you need information.

The SSA reminds us that going paperless isn't only about saving money and trees. There are all kinds of useful things you can do with your mySocialSecurity account:

See your estimated benefits. This can tell us the amount we will receive, and it can help us decide the best age at which to retire. How much more would we collect if we filed at age 70, versus at the youngest we could (age 62 today)? The difference can be substantial! (For example, check out a sample statement for workers ages 35 – 54, and another for those older than 55.) Especially when we're younger, seeing this number can provide a realistic estimate of how comfortable we'll be in retirement — and how much additional money we’ll need from other retirement accounts to achieve our goals.

Check the accuracy of earnings records. Your statement tells you how much money you made every year, and your Social Security benefit will be based on that number. So scrutinize that number every year — does the total match your annual statement from your employer? It's a lot easier to catch and deal with an error immediately rather than years down the road.

Manage your benefits from the comfort of your own home. On mySocialSecurity, you can file for Social Security, track the status of your application, set up direct deposit to your bank account, apply for Medicare, get a replacement Social Security or Medicare card, change your address, and apply for certain other benefits to which you may be entitled.

Senior couple looking at computer

How to create a mySocialSecurity account

If you are older than 18, have a home address, a valid email address and a Social Security number, go to mySocialSecurity and follow the simple instructions. Once you've created your account, you will be able to access your income history and projected monthly Social Security benefit. This is a good time to review your income history.

Be sure to keep your password secret. The SSA will ask you to create a security question. Notify the SSA right away if you think your account has been compromised. (And one more smart thing to do: Educate yourself about crooks who impersonate Social Security — the SSA provides information and updates on this epidemic on the Social Security Matters blog.)

What else can I do on the Social Security website?

The SSA website (www.ssa.gov) offers all sorts of other information and resources. It's a good place to research some of the complexities of the system. Of course, when it comes to really complicated issues, one of the most useful resources on the site is the good old-fashioned phone number, or the Social Security Office Locator, where you can find the address of your local office.

Right at Home, Inc. is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned providers of in home care services.