If you've worked as an employee through your life, you've almost certainly been paying into your Social Security account — and so have your employers. Social Security provides a baseline income for seniors after retirement, and it's tied in with the Medicare system as well, which provides basic health insurance to seniors. Reviewing your online Social Security statement can teach you a lot about your future retirement, and you can catch any errors in plenty of time to fix them.
While most people think of retirement age as 65, that's not necessarily the case with Social Security. Since the 1980s, the official Social Security retirement age has been creeping upward as one way to help extend the health and life of the Social Security funds. Most people now have a Full Retirement Age (the Social Security term for it) of at least 66, and the age continues to edge upward a month at a time. You can find your Full Retirement Age on your statement.
Social Security doesn't just make payments to you. If you should die, your spouse and your dependents are likely eligible to receive payments. How much are they going to receive? The ever-growing amount is on your statement. In addition, your spouse may be eligible for retirement benefits once you retire or even if you should die before retirement age.
Before 2017, the Social Security Administration mailed annual statements to everyone contributing to Social Security. Now, however, they have switched to a paperless online system. Since 2017, only people over 60 receive printed and mailed statements. Perhaps the SSA realized few people under 60 were paying much attention to their statements.
Retirees aren't the only ones who receive Social Security benefits. If you should become disabled and are longer able to work, your Social Security benefits — in the form of Supplemental Security Income payments — kick in. This number, just like your regular Social Security payments, goes up the longer you work. Your statement will show you what benefits you receive if you become disabled during the current calendar year.
You're required to pay 6.2 percent of your earnings into Social Security every year, with a cap of $128,700. This amount is taken out of your paycheck as a payroll deduction, and your employer matches this contribution. If you're self-employed, you have to pay both halves of that, totalling a 12.4 percent contribution. Check your statement to make sure you're getting all the credit you deserve for those contributions.
When you make Social Security contributions, you also make contributions to your Medicare account. As of 2018, both you and your employer contribute 1.45 percent to Medicare (self-employed people contribute 2.9 percent). If you earn more than $200,000, or $250,000 for a couple, you pay 0.9 percent more in Medicare taxes. Check your Social Security statement to make sure you're getting credited properly for everything you've paid.
To view your Social Security statement online, you need to create an online account. To create that account, you have to be at least 18. You'll have to answer questions to verify you are who you say you are. The Social Security website uses dual-factor authentication for further confirmation of identity, sending a security code to your phone. Make sure you're using a strong password since your Social Security information is some of the most vital to protect from hacking or identity theft.
You have to set up your account using a computer, but once you've done that, you have a lot of options when you want to check your Social Security statements. The Social Security Administration even offers an app so you can treat your Social Security account like a bank account — fortunately, it has advanced cyber protection.
The Social Security Administration makes it as easy as possible to access your statements via its website and app. However, if you still want to get a hard copy of your Social Security statement, you can ask for one by filling out Social Security Form SSA-7004 and sending it by mail. Your statement should arrive four to six weeks later.
Your Social Security statement shows your retirement benefits at age 62, when you're first eligible to take Social Security, as well as at your full retirement age, and again at 70, which is the cut off when you are required to file for your benefits. Waiting as long as possible can result in more benefits per month, and the information on your Social Security statement helps you make wise decisions for the future.