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Understanding Your Social Security Benefit Statement

The Social Security Administration mails estimated benefit statements to workers who reach ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60, who aren't currently receiving Social Security benefits, and who haven't registered for an online account. Designated workers receive a statement in the mail approximately three months before their birthday. Workers over 60 receive a statement every year.

It's important that you carefully review your Social Security benefit statement as it contains information needed to make significant financial decisions and may even contain errors. Read on for tips to help you better understand your Social Security benefit statement.

What Your Statement Contains

Your Social Security benefit statement is made up of two basic components:

  • An estimate of benefits for which you and your family may be eligible now and in the future, and
  • A record of your earnings history and an estimate of how much you and your employer paid in Social Security taxes.

Benefits Estimate

Boldfaced at the top right corner of page one of the benefits statement is your estimated benefit at your full retirement age. Your full retirement age is between 65 and 67 depending on when you were born. Page two contains detailed information about your retirement benefits at various ages, potential disability benefits if you're unable to work, and potential survivor benefits for your spouse and family.

Benefit estimates are based on average earnings over your working lifetime. The closer to retirement you are, the more accurate the estimated benefits will be. The actual amount of your benefit is determined when you apply for benefits and be may be different from the estimate in your statement if your earnings increase or decrease in the future. Additionally, page two contains descriptions of the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset rules that can reduce or eliminate your Social Security benefits if you receive a pension from work not covered by Social Security.

Earnings History and Social Security Taxes Estimate

Page three of the benefits statement provides your complete earnings history including the amount of Social Security taxes you've paid each year. Page four provides a summary of Social Security eligibility rules for retirement, disability, family, and survivor benefits.

Finally, a "Thinking of Retiring?" section is included and provides an explanation of how retiring early can affect your benefits and the benefits your spouse may receive.

Requesting Your Statement

You don't have to wait until you receive your statement in the mail. The Social Security Administration has made it easy for you to receive a copy of your benefit statement:

Correcting Errors on Your Statement

You should verify the information found in your Social Security benefit statement, including your name, Social Security number, and earnings report. Mistakes could prevent you from receiving your full benefit amount. If you do find errors on your statement, the Social Security Administration advises you to contact the agency at 1-800-772-1213. If you discover earnings missing from your record, you'll need proof of those earnings. Proof may include:

  • W-2 form
  • Tax return
  • A wage stub or pay slip
  • Your own wage records

Getting Help

If you need more information, you can contact the Social Security Administration. You should review your Social Security statement carefully, and if you need legal assistance you should contact a Social Security attorney .

Next Steps
Contact a qualified social security lawyer to assist in your
social security disability or retirement benefits issue.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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