Critter Corner: Why Am I No Longer Getting My Social Security Benefits Statement?

Dear Hayek,

I used to receive a document in the mail from the Social Security Administration every year that explained my benefits. I haven’t seen one in a long-time. Is this something that they eliminated, and if so, how can I access this information? I am 56 years old and planning for early retirement. Thanks for your help!

Nada Gettinitt

Dear Nada,

Until about a decade ago, all workers who were eligible for Social Security received a paper statement in the mail every year that provided projections of their benefits at various ages, along with reminders on the availability of disability benefits, and Medicare enrollment information.

However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) decided to save money by eliminating most mailings of benefit statements (for those under 60 years old). Instead, they encourage you to get the information online. This is not working out well for many people, however. The number of people accessing their statements online has been just a fraction of those who once were reached by paper statements in the mail.

How Do You Know Where to Check Online?

If you have an online account with the SSA, you will receive an email message three months before your birthday reminding you to review your statement. Unfortunately, due to much needed security and fraud prevention, the process of setting up an account and logging on can be challenging. The process requires users to go through multiple layers of authentication to prove identity.

Why You Should Check Your Statement Each Year

Yes, it may be difficult, but it is important to review your statement.

  • It helps you make more educated decisions: People who take the time to do so tend to make more optimal decisions claiming benefits. The statement projects your benefit at various ages – and people who review the numbers are far less likely to claim at earlier ages, and more likely to stay in the workforce longer, one recent research paper found.
  • The statement also provides an opportunity to safeguard against the threat of identity theft and fraud by checking your earning history to make sure it looks accurate. The best way to prevent fraud is for everyone to look every year at the earnings statement to see if everything looks right.

You can sign up for an account here: bit.ly/socialsecurityaccount. You also may be able to estimate your retirement benefit using this online Retirement Estimator.

If you are unable to create an account or encounter a problem with your Social Security account, you can visit a local office or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) for help.

Hope this is helpful!

Hayek

 

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