Your current age or status doesn’t matter. If you’ve earned a paycheck at some time in your life, keeping tabs on what the Social Security Administration shows you’ve earned just makes good sense. But does the thought of waiting in line at the Social Security office make you cringe? Then don’t do it!
Now there’s another option. Using the secure my Social Security online service is a time-saving tool that gives you safe access to not only your personal Social Security Statement, but many additional services as well.
Easy Access to Statements
Did you know that you won’t receive a Social Security statement in the mail until three months prior to your 60th birthday? Establishing an account on SSA’s my Social Security site allows you to access your statements no matter your age and whenever you like.
Why is this online service such a great deal? Social Security statements contain an historical record of your annual earnings subject to Social Security taxes, the amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes you paid, and estimated retirement, disability, and family benefits.
Your Social Security benefits are calculated based on your highest 35 years of income. That’s why it’s essential to verify your earnings on an annual basis. An error on your earnings record could result in a lower retirement benefit. And you don’t want that!
That’s Not All!
While early and convenient access to your Social Security statements is important, my Social Security offers additional useful features. It’s a one-stop shop for benefit verification letters. A benefit verification letter provides proof of your status – whether you’re currently receiving benefits, applied for benefits, or currently not receiving benefits. If you’re applying for assisted-living housing or retired and want to secure a mortgage, you’ll need that verification letter.
Are you currently receiving Social Security benefits? If so, you can change your address, phone number, and direct deposit using my Social Security. You can communicate with the Social Security Administration in a secure environment via your account’s message center. And If you lose your Social Security card or someone steals it, you can request a free replacement using your my Social Security account. Being able to handle these issues online saves you time and eliminates the hassle of driving to your local Social Security office.
So How Can I Set Up an Account?
Setting up your my Social Security account is nothing like creating a Facebook account. For one thing, the SSA works diligently to verify that the person behind the screen is who they say they are. Expect to be asked questions to which only you would know the answers. Often you’ll be asked to verify information pulled from your credit report. What happens if you have trouble verifying your identity online? No worries. Just visit your local Social Security office and show a valid ID and proof of your current address. A Social Security official can authenticate your identity and help you set up your account.
In light of the Equifax breach, many Americans froze their credit. If you fall into this category, you’ll have to lift the freeze in order to set up your my Social Security account. You can open your account and still keep your credit frozen; however, it would require a trip to your local Social Security office!
As with most online accounts, you’ll need to create a username and password. With a my Social Security account, you’ll also have the option to add an additional layer of security in the form of two-factor authentication. With two-factor authentication, you’ll receive a new, unique security code each time you sign in to your account. To implement two-factor authentication, simply select how you want to receive the security code – via your cell phone number or email address. Once you receive the code, just enter it online to gain access.
As you can see, there are many excellent reasons for setting up an account on my Social Security no matter your age. You can easily access your statements, verify your annual earnings, and keep track of your estimated benefits – all from the comfort of your own home.
There’s also another benefit that’s not as obvious – protection against identity theft. As Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications at SSA urged in September, "create your account today and take away the risk of someone else trying to create one in your name – even if they obtain your Social Security number!"
Kate Arndt is a Financial Planning Coordinator with Bedel Financial Consulting, Inc., a wealth management firm located in Indianapolis. For more information, visit their website bedelfinancial.com or email Kate.