I am a believer when it comes to Social Security that if you paid in, you’re entitled to collect every benefit you’re entitled to. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter how much your net worth is, if you paid into Social Security, you’re entitled to collect your benefits. For most people Social Security is a substantial portion of the income that they will receive in retirement. Because of this, it is important that whether you’re getting ready to retire, or retirement is 10 years away, or even if retirement is 30 years away, that you check to make sure the Social Security Administration has accurate records on you. After all, mistakes do happen. Mistakes can be something as simple as your employer mis-reporting your income, your Social Security Number was transposed incorrectly, or a digit was left out. The bottom line is if there is a mistake, it can cause your benefits to be reduced. Therefore, I recommend that at least every year or two you review your Social Security record to make sure it’s accurate.
One of the reasons why it’s important to review your Social Security earnings every year or two is the fact that the Social Security statute of limitations to correct an error is generally three years, three months and 15 days after the year in which your wages were paid. There are, of course, some exceptions to the rules that will extend your statute of limitations, such as if there was fraud on your account; however, it’s generally easier to resolve an issue with Social Security if you correct it during the normal statute of limitations time period.
Checking your Social Security record online is relatively simple. If you have already created a “my social security account,” you can go directly to www.socialsecurity.gov and login to check your earnings. On the other hand, if you have not registered for a “my social security” account, all you need to do is go to www.social.gov/myaccount in order to create one.
After you’ve created a “my social security account,” you can look at your Social Security earnings record to make sure it’s accurate. Even though your benefits are based upon the 35 years where you have the highest income, it is important that you review all your earnings for accuracy. Not only should you look at the earnings to make sure they’re correct, but also make sure there are no missing years in your records.
If you find that there is an error, you need to have it corrected as soon as possible. The first step is to complete “Request for Correction of Earnings Record” from Social Security. For those who are not computer savvy and prefer to deal with the Social Security Administration by phone, you can contact them at 800-772-1213.
There is another reason besides making sure that you receive every benefit you’re entitled to, to confirm your Social Security. The reason is that your statement may show signs of identity theft. For example, if when you review your records you discovered that the earnings reported are much greater than your own records show. I know what many of you are thinking, and that is what’s the problem. After all, if they have more earnings on record than you earned, it will increase your benefits. However, the way I look at it is that if your earnings are overstated, it could be a red flag that someone is illegally using your Social Security Number.
In today’s world it seems that nothing is easy. Whether it’s checking your Social Security earnings, reviewing your credit report, or shopping around your insurance coverages. It seems that taking care of our personal finances is never ending and there’s always something to do. I wish it wasn’t that way, but it is what it is.
Since the majority of Americans depend upon their Social Security earnings in retirement, it is extremely important that your numbers are accurate, so you get every benefit you’re entitled to. For the majority of people doing any sort of retirement planning, a key element is going to be your Social Security earnings. You don’t want to wait until the last minute and then find out there’s a problem with your Social Security. Therefore, my advice for everyone who is not collecting Social Security is to make sure at least every couple of years you review your Social Security earnings for accuracy. Social Security and employers make mistakes, and it’s up to you and me to correct them. Therefore, if you haven’t set up a “my social security” account, now is the time to do it; and if you haven’t checked your Social Security for the last two years, there’s no time like the present.
Rick is a fee-only financial advisor. His website is www.bloomassetmanagement.com. If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org.