5 things to know before setting up your free ‘my Social Security’ account

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Image Credit: SSA.gov
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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 newly released 2018 MassMutual Social Security survey.

Life insurance company MassMutual asked 1,000 respondents who were all 50 years or older a battery of five questions about Social Security during March 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).

RELATED: 14 things to know about Social Security in 2018

Your free my Social Security account is waiting

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. 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 change since MassMutual conducted their last Social Security survey three years ago in 2015.

2. Shhh! 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.

First, it has 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 $1,404, according to the latest December 2017 numbers from the SSA.

4. Have a credit freeze? 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 — which is just about to become free for everyone across the country to do — 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!

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.

5. 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 — literally — and we had our answer.

We know this is anecdotal evidence, 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. And getting your Social Security statement via your my Social Security account is a great start!

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