6 things to know before setting up your free my Social Security account

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Man sitting at computer setting up My Social Security account online
Image Credit: Dreamstime

Have you set up a ‘my Social Security’ account yet?

If you’re between the ages of 50 and 59, there’s an 86% chance you haven’t. That’s according to the latest MassMutual Social Security survey.

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

Life insurance company MassMutual asked 1,000 respondents who were all 50 years or older five questions about Social Security in March of 2018. What they discovered was that near-retirees have a shocking lack of knowledge about major working components of the government program.

But another insight also emerged in the MassMutual study: There’s a big knowledge gap around basic things like how to get the earnings statements that you may remember seeing in the past 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 understand before you sign up…

1. 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 60. This is a big change since MassMutual conducted their last Social Security survey three years ago.

2. There is still a little-known way to get your statement by mail

If, for some reason, you still want to get your Social Security statement by mail, just fill out this form. You’ll receive a paper copy in the mail in four to six weeks.

3. Your Social Security statement looks both forward and backward

Your Social Security statement contains two important pieces of info:

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  1. Earnings history
  2. Projections of your future Social Security benefit

First, your earnings history. This 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!

Second, and piggy-backing off the first part, your statement will give you a projection of what to expect when you do eventually file for benefits. The average Social Security check is $1,461, according to the latest numbers from the SSA.

4. Consider setting up Social Security online before retirement age

Most people wait until they’re just about to retire and collect Social Security benefits to sign up for Social Security online. But you may want to consider doing it earlier, according to Consumer Action Center director Lori Silverman.

In fact, at the beginning of your career may be the best time to do it.

“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.”

Finally, there’s another big reason why you should 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.”

Have a consumer question? Contact Clark’s Consumer Action Center — a FREE help line open Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. EST with volunteers available to answer YOUR concerns! Call Team Clark @ 404-892-8227.

5. Frozen your credit? Expect difficulty signing up for a my Social Security account

This one is crazy, but true.

When you’re creating your free my Social Security account, the SSA will use info from the credit bureaus to verify your identity online. Therefore, if you have a credit freeze, you will run into problems setting up your account.

Trust us, we know this because we here on Team Clark have credit freezes in place and we ran into trouble setting up our accounts! We figured that out when we got the dreaded “We cannot create an account for the Social Security number you entered” message.

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A telephone rep we spoke with 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 with our identification. There, a local agent would be able to give us a special activation code allowing us to complete the registration online.

6. Using the ‘Request a Callback’ option can be very helpful

There’s a perception that government workers are supposed to be more adept at dishing out what money expert Clark Howard calls “customer no-service” than most. But the telephone rep we spoke with obviously didn’t get the memo!

It’s no exaggeration to say that when we requested a callback to understand why we couldn’t create our account (before we learned of the role credit freeze plays), the phone rang in under three minutes and we had our answer.

We know this is anecdotal, but give it a try if you run into an unexpected issue setting up your my Social Security account. You might be as pleasantly surprised as we were!

Conclusion

Social Security replaces about 40% of your income before retirement, on average, according to estimates from the SSA.

The timing of when you take Social Security can have a big impact on what your monthly check will look like in retirement, 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 great start!

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