Here's What You Need to Know: Checking your earnings record every year is essential.
As most Americans already are aware that the days of sending out physical documents that take days or weeks to be delivered by the post office are gone. These days, almost everything can be done electronically—and this is also true for Social Security benefits.
For those people who haven’t set up an account already, know that the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) online portal mySocialSecurity can indeed come in handy if one is looking to gauge an estimate of their future benefits.
Past Earnings Record
One of the most important functions of the SSA account—which should be looked at each year—is that it enables the user to check and double-check their past earnings record. Do take note that many financial experts see this as being highly important, largely because if there are indeed any mistakes in the data, they could have a profound impact on how much money one will receive when it’s their turn to retire.
“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. . . . If earnings (are) missing from your record, the first thing you should do is find some proof of those earnings,” according to the SSA. “After you’ve gathered your documents or made a list of all of the information you can remember, contact Social Security.”
Inaccurate Real Earnings
If the earnings record does show a lower salary than what was actually earned and this mistake is not caught, “it could bring down your career-average wages, resulting in a lower retirement benefit,” according to the Motley Fool.
“And because you typically pay Social Security taxes out of each paycheck, there’s a good chance that you would have paid taxes on wages you didn’t get credit for if your earnings record is wrong,” the financial website adds.
One of the major reasons why checking the earnings record every year is essential is that it will surely be harder to come up with the necessary documents, such as pay stubs, to prove your real earnings if the mistake is ten, fifteen, or even twenty years old.
“Checking your earnings record is really simple and takes minutes,” according to the finance site. “It’s one of the easiest ways to get the maximum Social Security benefit. Check yours today, and put an annual review on your to-do list.”
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.
This article first appeared in August 2021.
Image: REUTERS/Marcelo Del Pozo