As many Social Security recipients already are aware, the federal government no longer sends out annual updates via the post office.
So, in order to stay on top of your Social Security benefits, make sure to create a login on the Social Security Administration (SSA) website and check on your retirement safety net. The site will also reveal what your monthly payment may be, all based on your earnings history.
According to the latest report by Vanguard, the majority of Americans, unfortunately, aren’t prepared for their golden years. It found that the average retirement account balance was a shade over $106,000—but nearly 60 percent had savings totaling less than $40,000. About a third of Americans didn’t even have $10,000 saved.
Social Security benefits are also the chief source of income for the majority of senior citizens. According to data compiled by the SSA, nearly 90 percent of all individuals aged sixty-five and over receive Social Security benefits, representing 33 percent of their incomes. The SSA added that roughly 20 percent of married couples and 40 percent of singles receive at least 90 percent of their income from the Social Security program.
Insight Into Future Benefits
By having an account with the SSA, an individual can also gain important insight into how much less one would receive if he or she begins collecting the benefits at sixty-two, the earliest age to do so. Do keep in mind that filing at age seventy will reap the biggest monthly checks—currently sitting at nearly $4,000.
Moreover, by checking the earnings record carefully, one can see if there are any mistakes, which could have a huge impact on how much money one will eventually receive.
“The amount of the Social Security benefit you or your family receive depends on the amount of earnings shown on your record. If all of your earnings are not shown on your record, this could mean lower Social Security benefits for you or your family,” according to the SSA.
“If the earnings missing from your Social Security record are for the current year or last year, you don’t need to worry. Because these earnings are recent, we may not have recorded them yet. They should appear on a later statement,” the agency adds.
How Earnings Could Be Missing
Earnings could be missing because of these reasons: employer reported earnings using the wrong name or Social Security number; employer reported earnings incorrectly; an individual got married or divorced and changed name but wasn’t reported; or a person worked using a Social Security number that belonged to someone else.
“If you discover earnings missing from your record, the first thing you should do is find some proof of those earnings,” the SSA notes.
“After you’ve gathered your documents or made a list of all of the information you can remember, contact Social Security. We’ll work with you to correct your record. This process could take some time, depending on the information you bring to us about your missing earnings. We may have to contact your employers or have you contact them,” it continues.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.