Your account with Social Security, known by SSA as “my social security,” has recently undergone some changes.
Before, you were able to view and download the old, well-known paper statement – the one that has been around for a long, long time, and which used to be sent to you once a year. It’s all changed now, and if you get a statement sent to you, you’re in the minority.
Today, all the cool kids are looking at their social security eligibility information and other records online. You can still view and print the statement if you want, but the statement itself has also undergone a makeover.
The first item you want to look at is yours my social security account is linked to your social security statement. This is the replacement for the original statement that used to be sent out once a year.
If you were familiar with the old statement, you will notice some major changes with the new one. First of all, it is now only two pages long, while the old one was four. The new statement is also more visually appealing, as there is a graph on the first page showing your potential benefits at different ages. Previously, this information was only summarized as a few different items (at age 62 or your current age, if older, at full retirement age and at age 70), but now you can see the effect on your potential benefit amount for each year of application age delay.
Included on the first page is a warning that your potential benefits may be different if you participate in a pension plan or pension that was not covered by social security taxation (more on this a little later).
The next section provides you with information about your eligibility for Social Security benefits. Here you will find an indicator of whether you have currently earned enough credits (quarterly earnings credits) to qualify for social benefits. Typically, you must earn 40 quarterly credits to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. This figure may be lower for Social Security disability benefits if you are younger.
An important statement is included in this section indicating that the projections shown by the graph to the right are based on the assumption that your Social Security-covered earnings from your most recently reported year will continue at the same rate until at least the filing age indicated in the graph. If your earnings are more or less than the most recent sample (the actual amount is stated), then your potential benefit may be more or less.
Next comes a statement of your eligibility for invalidity benefit. As mentioned above, depending on your age, you may be eligible for disability benefits with fewer quarterly earnings credits than the typical 40 required for retirement benefits. The amount of disability benefits, if you are eligible, will also be indicated.
After the disability section, you will find a section on potential survivor benefits that may be available to your surviving spouse (in two possible situations, either as maternity or paternity benefit while caring for your child under 16, or simply as a surviving spouse without young children) as well as benefits for your surviving children under the age of 18, or who are disabled. At the end of this section, there will be a total family benefit amount that can be a limiting factor for your relatives who receive benefits based on your earnings.
The last item on this first page is an overview of your eligibility for Medicare benefits, which also includes age and conditional eligibility restrictions. Included here is information about the time of your registration with Medicare, as well as how to find more information to sign up.
On page 2 of your statement, you will find information about your lifetime earnings. This part of the statement is summarized from the complete earnings items. Your earliest earning years are compiled by decades and show only the total earnings that are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxation. Your last decade of earnings is typically listed year by year, which is useful to review to ensure that there are no recent issues with the amounts that Social Security has maintained on your record.
If you need the full year-on-year summary of your earnings, just go back to my social security account and scroll down a bit to the link “Review your full earnings now”; this will give you a list of all the years of your earnings registered with Social Security, in case you need to correct any issues.
Next on the inventory is an overview of the amount of tax you and your employer have paid based on your earnings over your lifetime. Often this is a surprising amount – it has been a lot of money over the years. But if you put the tax figures in the context of the benefit amounts listed on the first page, it’s actually a pretty good deal all around – provided you live long enough to receive the benefits for a good while.
In the right column on page 2 you will find information that was alluded to at the beginning: if you had income that was not covered by social security taxation, and this income provided a pension (or other pension benefit), the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) will reduce your pension benefit from social security. Similarly (but calculated very differently), if you receive such a pension from a state entity while receiving social security benefits based on someone else’s sign (such as your spouse, ex-spouse or deceased spouse), then the Government Pension Offset ( GPO) can affect the size of your service.
The very last part of the statement gives you some good information and insight into how social security benefits work, for you, your spouse and your relatives if they are qualified. There are also links to sites that you may want to review to learn more about your potential benefits.
Going back to my social security account page, next on the page after the inventory is a link to a fact sheet called “Retirement Ready”. This fact sheet gives you a brief overview of what you need to know as you approach retirement age.
Another link is available which goes over what you need to know about WEP and GPO if you have had earnings that were not covered by Social Security.
There is also a link that you can use to access the form to request a replacement card for the Social Security system if you have lost yours.
At the end of this section, you can also submit a letter from Social Security certifying that you are either receiving or not receiving Social Security benefits. Some other benefit applications or agencies may require this certificate of certification.
Next up is a graphical display of your quarterly earnings credits – indicating where you stand in relation to your entitlement to benefits. Just below this graph is the link to see your complete earnings, as I mentioned before.
The next section, possibly the most valuable section, is a planning tool that you can use to model various changes in your relationships. To begin with, this tool will show your potential retirement benefits from Social Security based on the assumptions that Social Security makes when you project benefits. This includes the fact that your earnings will remain the same from now until your “retirement” and that you work and earn at that rate until the date your Social Security pension begins.
These factors can be adjusted – you can model a larger or smaller amount of earnings as well as model the inclusion of your spouse’s social security benefits, which can help you find out if spouse benefits apply to you or your spouse. This can be a cheap, high-level overview to help you in your decision on when to apply for Social Security retirement benefits.
This section also contains a link to start your application for pension benefits, as well as more information on what to use when applying for benefits.
Following the planning tool, you will find information on disability benefits, Medicare benefits, and other information that may be helpful to you when planning your retirement.