Have you set up a “my Social Security” account yet?
In this article, we’ll take a look at what you need to know about your my Social Security account and why you may not want to wait until you’re just about to retire to set up Social Security online.
Your Free “My Social Security” Account Is Waiting
In March 2020, life insurance company MassMutual asked 1,500 respondents between the ages of 55-65 (who had not filed for Social Security benefits) five questions about Social Security. What the survey discovered was that 33% of near-retirees “failed” the test, displaying a lack of knowledge about the major working components of the government program.
But another insight also emerged from the MassMutual study: There’s a big knowledge gap around even basic things like how to get your earnings statements from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Setting up a free my Social Security account is the best way to get access to your Social Security statements.
Here are a few things to know before you sign up.
1. Consider Setting Up Social Security Online Before Retirement Age
Most people wait until they’re just about to retire to sign up for Social Security online. But you may want to consider doing it much, much earlier, according to Consumer Action Center director Lori Silverman.
“The reason I think it is important to sign up for my Social Security when you begin your career is you no longer will receive paper statements unless you request to have them mailed to you,” Lori says. “Plus, it is a way to monitor your Social Security account and keep track of how much you will receive in retirement.”
And there’s another big reason to sign up earlier rather than later, according to Lori.
“Setting up an online account will prevent criminals from creating an account in your name and then using it to apply for benefits.”
2. Your Social Security Statement Looks Both Forward and Backward
Your Social Security statement contains two important pieces of information:
- Earnings history
- Projections of your future Social Security benefit
Your earnings history is particularly important because your Social Security benefit is calculated based on your 35 highest-earning years of work. You want to be sure the government gets it right!
Your statement will also project what you can expect when you do eventually file for benefits. The average monthly Social Security check is $1,514, according to the latest numbers from the SSA.
3. The SSA Doesn’t Really Want to Mail You a Paper Statement
In an effort to go green and save money, the SSA no longer mails Social Security statements to anyone under the age of 60. If you are 60 or older, the SSA will start mailing paper statements three months before your birthday — if you haven’t signed up for a my Social Security account.
4. Frozen Your Credit? Expect Difficulty Signing Up for a “My Social Security” Account
When you establish your account, the SSA will use information from the credit bureaus to verify your identity. So if you have a credit freeze in place, you will run into problems completing the set up.
Trust us, we know this because we here on Team Clark have credit freezes in place and we ran into trouble ourselves! We figured that out when we got the dreaded “We cannot create an account for the Social Security number you entered” message.
An SSA telephone representative informed us that even if we unfroze our credit that moment, there would be no telling when the thawed data would work its way through the SSA’s computer system.
To expedite the sign-up process, the rep suggested that we instead visit a local Social Security office and bring identification with us. There, a local agent would provide a special activation code that would let us complete the registration online.
Social Security replaces about 40% of your income before retirement, on average, according to estimates from the SSA.
When you start taking Social Security can have a big impact on what your monthly check will look like, so you need to arm yourself with as much knowledge about Social Security as you can. Getting your Social Security statement via your my Social Security account is a good way to start.
Have a question about Social Security or retirement? Contact Clark’s free Consumer Action Center.