Social Security's new online benefits statement is a useful new resource for anyone doing financial planning or future financial projections. And, as I learned when I signed up to view mine, the statements provide some interesting new information.
If you've begun to think about retiring--or if you're wondering whether it's even a financial possibility--you'll need a copy of your statement, which shows the Social Security retirement benefits you could collect if you claimed at the earliest possible time (age 62), the latest possible time (age 70), and at your "full retirement age" (a range that differs depending on when you were born.) As we report in a recent Consumer Reports Money Adviser article on how to get the most money from Social Security, those with patience and knowledge of how to work the system can maximize their payouts significantly. But first, you'll need to set up an online account at the Social Security site.
Setting up your account isn't much different than the process on a bank's web site. Social Security employs Experian, the credit bureau, to verify your identity by asking some additional questions specific to you. For instance, you might be asked to choose your mortgage company from among four listed companies, or the make of your current car. Social Security asks if you want to add another layer of security; to do so, you'll need to have handy either a major credit card (not including American Express), a tax return, a W-2 form or the last direct-deposit amount of your Social Security benefits.
My statement looked similar to what I'd been receiving in the mail. It included all my Social Security and Medicare annual wages since I started working, and estimates of what I'd receive monthly if I claimed benefits at different ages. Social Security says its estimates are based on my earning the same amount the I earn now until I retire. The agency provides plenty of tabs and links to more details, and other useful tools.
New and notable was a summation of everything that I and my employers have paid in Social Security taxes (more than $200,000 so far), and in Medicare taxes (a little less than $50,000). Depending on your point of view, you may feel like you've paid in more than your share, or that you're getting a better deal on your benefits than you ever imagined. In any case, it's interesting information for every worker--and voter--to consider.