Mary Beth Franklin

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Social Security makes a statement with virtual benefit estimates

Important financial planning tool now available online

By Mary Beth Franklin

May 3, 2012 @ 1:24 pm (Updated 5:16 pm) EST

Social Security

In a budget cutting move last year, the Social Security Administration stopped mailing paper benefit estimates to workers, a move that caused an outcry among individuals and financial planners who rely on the documents as an important tool in the financial planning process.

The agency resumed mailing paper statements in February 2012, but only to a select group of workers -- those 60 and older who are not currently receiving benefits. Now, everyone can get access to their Social Security statements and earnings record -- but only online.

“Our new online Social Security Statement, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement, is simple, easy-to-use and provides people with estimates they can use to plan for their retirement,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security.

In addition to retirement benefit estimates, the online statement also provides estimates for disability and survivors benefits. And, it also gives workers a convenient way to determine whether their earnings are accurately posted to their Social Security records

This earnings record is an important feature because Social Security benefits are based on average earnings over a person's lifetime. If the earnings information is not accurate, the person may not receive all the benefits to which he or she is entitled. The online statement also provides the opportunity to save or print the personalized Statement for financial planning discussions with family or a financial planner.

To get a personalized online Statement, people age 18 and older must be able to provide information about themselves that matches information already on file with Social Security. In addition, Social Security uses Experian, an external authentication service provider, for additional verification.

Once verified, people will create a “My Social Security” account with a unique user name and password to access their online Statement. In addition, the portal also includes links to information about other online services, such as applications for retirement, disability and Medicare.

But the online process may not be smooth sailing for everyone. The Social Security Administration anticipates that some members of the public will not be able to be verified through this process. Some people may not correctly answer the security questions based on information on file with Experian, and others may supply identifying information that does not match their Social Security records. If this occurs, individuals can request that a paper Social Security Statement be mailed to them. Those who cannot verify online initially can visit their local Social Security office and present an identity document in order to create an account and gain access to the online version of the statement.

In additions to workers 60 and olders who already receive paper benefit statements, Social Security will begin mailing paper statements later this year to workers in the year they reach age 25.

For more information about the new online Statement, click here