Social Security benefits statement
June 25, 2014 | by Jim Saulnier, CFP®
Paper Social Security Benefits Statements Are Back! (sort of….)

When you're done reading, be sure to listen to our audio blog below!

Nearly 15 years ago the Social Security Administration (SSA) began mailing paper Social Security benefits statements to everyone 25 or older. These statements were intended to help people track their reported earnings, estimate their future retirement benefits, and monitor important Social Security funding information.  In short, the statements encouraged people to better plan for their retirement. However, in 2011, as a cost-savings mechanism, the SSA stopped mailing annual statements.  (The SSA estimates they save nearly $70M a year by not mailing annual statements.) In lieu of paper statements, beginning in 2012 the SSA offered an online portal so workers could download their benefits statements. (You can register for the portal yourself at www.ssa.gov/mystatement.) However, Congress felt the lack of Social Security paper statements was a real deterrent for motivating people to save and plan for their retirement. Part of their worry was that by 2014 only 6% of workers had registered online for their benefit statements.  As a result Congress encouraged the SSA to rethink their position, and to start offering paper Social Security benefits statements once again.

Paper Statements Only to Some

With that in mind, Social Security recently announced they will once again mail paper statements to certain workers beginning in September 2014.  These new mailings will only be sent to people who are not currently collecting Social Security benefits and who have not yet enrolled in the online portal. If you are one of the few who have registered for the online Social Security benefit statement you will not receive paper statements. And although paper statements are returning, they are not returning at the annual level they were in the past.  Instead, the SSA will mail you a benefit statement once every five years beginning at age 25 and continuing at age 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60. (Unless you finally breakdown and register online!)

Register Online

Although your Social Security benefit statements are once again being mailed, Chris and I highly recommended you enroll in the online portal. Registration is quite easy and online access will afford you the opportunity to monitor your earnings statements whenever you want ─ not just every five years as is the case under the new mailing schedule. This is especially important for workers who may be impacted by the Windfall Elimination Provision. Those workers must accurately track their annual reported earnings to see if they are on track to amass 30 years of “substantial earnings.”

Check Your Statement

If you get in the habit of downloading your benefit statement every year at tax time, you can easily see what Social Security reported as your previous year’s earnings. A quick glance at last year’s tax return can confirm whether or not Social Security accurately recorded your earnings for that year. Remember, your Social Security benefits are based on your (or your spouse’s) reported earnings history. Who else is going to make sure the SSA did not make a mistake in recording your earnings? It’s up to you, and the best way to do that is to monitor your report annually. For more information, please use the play button below.

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