Telling Tips is a series of articles from local experts to help you save money, make better decisions and plan for a better future.
Unless you are at least 60 years-old, you have been missing a very important piece of mail every year — your annual Social Security Statement. This statement provided you with your current and lifetime earnings, which your employers reported to the Social Security Administration. Pro-active tax return preparers asked to see your statement every year to make sure that it was correct. These annual statements were one of the casualties of the recession and corresponding budget cuts at the Social Security Administration.
These statements also gave you estimates of retirement and disability benefits you might be entitled to receive, estimates of the benefits your family might receive if you die or collect Social Security, general information about Social Security, and much more.
Good News: You can now get this statement at the Social Security website (www.SSA.gov) by clicking on the ‘Get Your Social Security Statement Online’ link.
This is very important, and you should mark your calendar to download your statement once a year, maybe in January, put it with your tax material, and have your tax preparer verify the figures for you. If there is a problem, you can correct it sooner rather than later.
Also, this statement is an important financial planning tool, as Social Security is the cornerstone for many retirement plans, accounting for an average of 40 percent of retirement income. Your benefits are based upon your earnings, and if there is an error, you will be losing for the rest of your life. Checking this report annually is your responsibility. Your benefits are based on the highest 35 years of Social Security earnings, not on the popular notice of the last three or four years as some local government workers’ retirement benefits are computed.
To get the statement, you must be at least 18 years-old, and provide some information about yourself that Social Security already has on file, such as your Social Security Number and home address, as well as information that Social Security received from the Experian credit agency, such as your high school, previous employers, or bank loans outstanding — items that would be on your credit report. You’ll then create an account, and set up your user name and password.
If you are having trouble creating the online account, you can go to the Social Security office with proper identification to set up an account, or you can just have the statement by mailed to you.
The bottom line is to get and review your statement annually.
If you would like an annual reminder in January, please call this office at (718) 332-1040 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add you to our list — but set up your Social Security account now.
Have a good week.
And remember: Seat belts are not as confining as wheelchairs.
Joseph Reisman, of Joseph S. Reisman & Associates, has been serving tax prep and business accounting expertise from his Coney Island Avenue office for more than 25 years. Check out the firm’s website.