Social Security • August 23rd, 2020

How to Read & Use Your Social Security Benefits Statement

Stephanie Faris

Key Takeaways
  • Knowing how to check your Social Security benefits can help you keep an eye on things to ensure you’re well taken care of in retirement.
  • You can request a statement by mail, but the easiest way to check your earnings is to create an account on my Social Security.
  • Your statement will include your credits earned to date and your estimated monthly benefits at retirement or if you become disabled.

No matter your age, as long as you have a Social Security number, you can get an update on your benefits. But whether you received a Social Security benefits statement in the mail or you’re checking it online, you may not immediately know how to read it.

When you enter the workforce, your earnings are tracked through your Social Security number. Currently, you earn one credit for every $1,410 you make in wages, either from employment or self-employment, but this amount can change from one year to the next. You can earn up to four credits per year.

Important Information to Take Away from Your Statement

Your Social Security estimated benefits statement has important information, especially if you’re thinking ahead to retirement. Your statement will include:

  • Your estimated monthly earnings during retirement.
  • The payment amount your survivors could expect after your death.
  • The number of credits you currently have.
  • Whether you have enough credits to qualify for Medicare.
  • Your earnings record, broken out by year.
  • Total Social Security and Medicare taxes paid.

How Much You Will Get From Social Security When You Retire?

The biggest takeaway from your Social Security earnings statement will likely be how much you can expect to earn in retirement. Your anticipated monthly payment is listed in bold letters at the top. Of course, this is just an estimate, so it will become more accurate the closer you get to retirement age.

Verify Your Social Security and Medicare Contributions

The quickest way to check your contributions is to look at your Social Security statement online. The information is just below your year-by-year earnings record. However, you may need verification of those benefits after you retire for applying as a renter or getting a bank loan. The good news is, once you have an online account, you can easily request a benefit verification letter through the website. It will include your benefit amount and type, Medicare start date and withholding amount, and age. Those who are unable to go online can call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

What’s the Benefit Amount if You Become Disabled?

Retirement benefits aren’t the only reason to check your SSA benefit statement on a regular basis. If you become disabled, you could receive payments well before retirement age. Your statement tells you whether or not you’ve earned enough credits for disability, as well as how much of a monthly payment you could expect if you became disabled today.

How Much Will Your Family Members Receive If You Die?

Although you probably don’t want to think about passing away, there is some comfort in knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of. If you have enough credits, your survivors will receive a percentage of your benefits after your death. That percentage is based on the survivor’s relationship to you and their age. If you were receiving benefits at the time of your death and your surviving spouse is at full retirement age, he or she would receive 100 percent of your benefits.

To see where you stand on survivor’s benefits, check your Social Security annual statement. The information is just below your own estimated monthly benefits for retirement and disability. It will be expressed as an estimated monthly amount.

Review Your Earnings Record

As useful as it is to check Social Security credits, you’ll probably find the section on your annual earnings interesting. It provides a snapshot of how far you’ve come over the years. You can see your annual earnings going all the way back to your first year of work. If there are discrepancies between your earnings documentation and your statement there is a process to correct any inaccuracies.

How to Get Your Social Security Statement

You no longer have to wait around for a Social Security statement to arrive in the mail. The SSA has set up a way to monitor your account online. Simply go to SSA.gov/myaccount/ and create an account. There, you can use the calculator to estimate your benefits, manage your direct deposit once you reach the age of eligibility, and more.

Final Thoughts

Although it’s good to know how to check your Social Security, it’s also important to note that your benefits can change at any time. Congress adjusts the law from time to time, so the estimates you see may not at all reflect the reality, especially if you’re far away from retirement. Monitor your Social Security statement and work with a Certified Financial Planner® to make sure your other retirement savings will be enough to supplement it.

Author

Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a writer for a credit card processing service and has written about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on Money Under 30, The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, E-commerce Insiders, and GoBankingRates.