The Social Security Administration(SSA) announced recently that they have resumed mailing benefits statements which let workers know what they can expect to receive when they start drawing Social Security benefits. The SSA phased out the mailing of statements in 2011, which allowed them to save about $70 million a year in production and mailing costs. At that time, they directed people to access their benefits statements online through www.ssa.gov. However, the online approach was not enthusiastically embraced by workers. The most recent estimates show that only 11% of workers set up an online account since 2011 to access their statements.
As a result, and also due to a bill passed by Congress last year, they will resume mailing statements this month. In the future, workers will receive statements every five years starting a few months before their 25th birthday. Once a worker reaches 60 years of age they will receive a statement every year.
Knowing what you may receive is crucial to planning your retirement, especially if you need to make any adjustments to your retirement plans. As such, I applaud this change, even though it is expected to cost about $23 million per year to resume the mailing of statements. However, I strongly encourage workers to set up a “My Social Security” account at www.ssa.gov rather than wait for a statement in the mail every five years. It takes about five minutes to set up an account and the process is secure. You will be asked some basic information such as your Social Security Number, your mailing address and a valid e-mail address. You also will be asked to answer questions that only you are likely to know that matches information on file with the SSA and your credit report, such as former employers and past mailing addresses. These questions are intended to protect you in the event that you lose your wallet or purse, as typically only your current information would be immediately accessible to someone who found or stole those items.
After you register for a My Social Security account, you will receive annual reminders via e-mail to check your statement online, but you will no longer receive a paper statement. Some people may argue against signing up for an online account for that reason, but I like to do whatever I can to reduce taxpayer costs which ultimately come out of my wallet and yours!
Scott Whyte conducts a seminar for area community organizations on Understanding Your Social Security Benefits. If you would like to schedule Scott to speak at one of your organization meetings, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.