Social Security column
WHY IT PAYS TO KEEP A CAREFUL EYE ON YOUR EARNINGS RECORD
Whether you’re ready to retire, just joining the workforce, or somewhere in between, regularly reviewing your Social Security
earnings record could make a big difference when it’s time to collect your retirement benefits.
Just think, in some situations, if an employer did not properly report just one year of your work earnings to us, your future
benefit payments from Social Security could be close to $100 per month less than they should be. Over the course of a
lifetime, that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in retirement or other benefits to which you are entitled.
Social Security prevents many mistakes from ever appearing on your earnings record. On average, we process about 236
million W-2 wage reports from employers, representing more than $5 trillion in earnings. More than 98 percent of these
wages are successfully posted with little problem.
But it’s ultimately the responsibility of your employers — past and present — to provide accurate earnings information to
Social Security so you get credit for the contributions you’ve made through payroll taxes. We rely on you to inform us of any
errors or omissions. You’re the only person who can look at your lifetime earnings record and verify that it’s complete and
So, what’s the easiest and most efficient way to validate your earnings record?
Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to set up or sign in to your own my Social Security account;
Under the “My Home” tab, click on “Earnings Record” to view your online Social Security Statement and taxed Social Security
Carefully review each year of listed earnings and use your own records, such as W-2s and tax returns, to confirm them; and
Keep in mind that earnings from this year and last year may not be listed yet.
If you notice that you need to correct your earnings record, check out our one-page fact sheet at www.socialsecurity.
Sooner is definitely better when it comes to identifying and reporting problems with your earnings record. As time passes,
you may no longer have past tax documents and some employers may no longer be in business or able to provide past
If it turns out everything in your earnings record is correct, you can use the information and our online calculators at www.
socialsecurity.gov/planners/benefitcalculators.html to plan for your retirement and prepare for the unexpected, such as
becoming disabled or leaving behind survivors. We use your top 35 years of earnings when we calculate your benefit
amounts. You can learn more about how your benefit amount is calculated at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10070.pdf.
We’re with you throughout life’s journey, from starting your first job to receiving your well-earned first retirement payment.
Learn more about the services we provide online at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.
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DON’T GET SCHOOLED, GET SMART ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY
Your summer job might be ending soon. You might even hold a part time job while you’re in school. You can easily jump to
the head of the class and secure your future with a few simple steps. As a young worker, you’re in the best position for
planning, investing, and saving for your retirement, growing that nest egg as large as it can be. The sooner you start, the
more money you’ll have.
There are two easy ways to get started in preparing for retirement:
Open a free online my Social Security account with Social Security. Having a personal and secure account is easy, but
better yet, it empowers you. You can access the services you need in the convenience of your own home or on the go
without traveling to a Social Security office. To open or access your account, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Many of our resources are available online and my Social Security is one of the best places to access vital information
about your retirement. We are constantly adding new features to make your experience with us faster and more convenient.
You can even replace your lost or misplaced Social Security card online in certain areas.
You could also start a myRA account. myRA is designed for people who don’t have a retirement savings plan through their
employer, or are limited from other savings options. Check it out at www.myra.gov. If your employer provides a retirement
savings plan, such as a 401(k), learn more about that plan’s potential matching contributions or other benefits. It’s never
too early, and the more you save now, the more you’ll have later.
Did you know that a 20-year-old has a 1-in-4 chance of becoming disabled before reaching full retirement age? Social
Security will be there for you if you become disabled and cannot work. Accessing your online account can also help you
determine your estimated future disability benefits. To learn more about disability and to apply, go to www.socialsecurity.
The earlier you start preparing for the future, the more comfortable that future will be. Like a good friend, Social Security has
your back when it comes to retirement planning or in the unfortunate event of disability. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.
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IT’S MORE CONVENIENT THAN EVER TO APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
You’ve worked hard your whole life, and receiving your Social Security benefits should be the icing on the cake at your
retirement party. We’re working hard to make it as quick and seamless as possible for you to apply for benefits from Social
Simply visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyforbenefits to get started. Through our safe and secure website, you can apply for:
Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs; and, in some cases,
Supplemental Security Income.
You don’t have to be internet savvy to finish most of our online applications in one sitting with your computer. Or, if you
prefer, we offer you the options to apply in person at your Social Security office or by telephone with one of our application
representatives. Please call 1-800-772-1213 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays to schedule an appointment.
You should also call us to schedule an appointment if you wish to apply for certain family benefits, including those for
surviving spouses and children, divorced spouses and dependent children, and parents of beneficiaries.
After you’ve applied for benefits — whether online, by phone, or in person — you can securely and quickly check the status
of a pending claim through your online my Social Security account. If you haven’t created your account yet, you can do so
today by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
You can also use my Social Security to view estimates of how much you would receive in retirement benefits and potential
disability benefits and how much your loved ones could receive in family or survivor benefits.
We’re with you throughout life’s journey, from applying for your first job to receiving your first retirement payment. And we’re
proud to help ensure a secure future for you and your loved ones.
To learn more about our programs and online services, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
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YOUR RETIREMENT PLANNING STARTS WITH SOCIAL SECURITY
Right now is the perfect time to start planning for a secure, comfortable retirement. And you can count on Social Security to
help you begin the process.
First, we encourage you to set up an online my Social Security account so you can verify your lifetime earnings record and
make sure you get credit for all of your contributions to the Social Security system through the Federal Insurance
Contributions Act (FICA) payroll taxes. If you haven’t set up your personal my Social Security account yet, you can do so at
Then, you can use your earnings history and our online retirement estimators and calculators to get a glimpse of what your
Social Security retirement future looks like. You’ll find important details such as your retirement age, life expectancy, and
estimates of how much you may receive in future retirement benefits from Social Security.
As you look ahead to ensuring a secure, comfortable future for you and your family, it’s important to keep in mind that Social
Security replaces about 40 percent of your pre-retirement income, on average. So, a responsible retirement plan includes
planning for more than Social Security.
Here are some more things you can do now to build your financial security:
Contribute to pension plans offered by your employers;
Maintain and grow savings accounts; and
Open and regularly contribute to an individual retirement fund.
These steps — combined with your Social Security benefits — will go a long way toward ensuring a comfortable quality of
life for you and your loved ones in the future.
If you don’t already have a retirement account, you can start one today by visiting www.myra.gov. Developed by the U.S.
Department of the Treasury, myRA offers those without an employer-sponsored retirement plan an affordable and secure
way to save for later in life.
As you plan for a financially secure future, please keep in mind that our Retirement Estimator and benefit calculators
provide you with estimates — not guarantees. We can’t provide your actual benefit amount until you apply for benefits.
Our estimates may differ from your actual benefit amount if your future earnings increase or decrease, if laws governing
benefit amounts change, if you’ve served in the military, or if you’ve had jobs in which you did not pay Social Security taxes.
Social Security is with you throughout life’s journey, from your first paycheck to receiving your first retirement deposit in your
bank account. And, as our nation’s most successful anti-poverty program, we’ll continue to provide you and millions of other
Americans with financial protections to ensure a secure tomorrow.
To learn more about our programs, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
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Q and A
Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that work?
It depends on your date of birth. If you were born on or before 01/01/1954 and your spouse is receiving Social Security
benefits, you can apply for retirement benefits on your spouse’s record as long as you are at your full retirement age. You
then will earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70, as long as you do not collect benefits on your own work record. Later,
when you do begin receiving benefits on your own record, those payments could very well be higher than they would have
been otherwise. If your spouse is also full retirement age and does not receive benefits, your spouse will have to apply for
benefits and request the payments be suspended. Then you can receive benefits on your spouse’s Social Security record.
If you were born on or after 01/02/1954, and you wish to receive benefits, you must file for all benefits for which you are
eligible. The Social Security Administration will determine the benefits you are eligible for and pay you accordingly. For
individuals born on or after 01/02/1954, there is no longer an option to select which benefit you would like to receive, even
beyond your full retirement age. Widows are an exception, as they can choose to take their deceased spouse’s benefit
without filing for their own. For more information, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
My father receives Social Security retirement benefits, and I will be in charge of his estate when he dies. Should that occur,
do I need to report his death to Social Security or will benefits automatically stop?
When your father dies, please notify Social Security as soon as possible by calling us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-
0778). Another person, such as a spouse, may be eligible for survivors benefits based on his record. Also, we might be
able to pay a one-time payment of $255 to help with funeral expenses. We suggest reading a copy of our online publication,
How Social Security Can Help You When A Family Member Dies, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10008.html.
My wife and I live in Wisconsin, but plan to spend the winter in Texas. My wife will turn 62 while we are down south. Can she
apply for benefits in Texas, or do we have to wait until we get back home to apply for retirement at our local Social Security
These days, you don’t even have to be near a Social Security office to apply for benefits. Regardless of where you and your
wife are living, you can apply for retirement benefits online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applytoretire. It’s so easy to do, and it
can take as little as 15 minutes to complete and submit the application. If she prefers, your wife can file a retirement benefit
application at any Social Security office — including the one closest to you in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas, or wherever you
happen to be.
I plan to retire soon. When are Social Security benefits paid?
Social Security benefits are paid each month. Generally, new retirees receive their benefits on either the second, third, or
fourth Wednesday of each month, depending on the day in the month the retiree was born. If you receive benefits as a
spouse, your benefit payment date will be determined by your spouse’s birth date.
Here’s a chart showing how your monthly payment date is determined:
Day of the Month You Were Born Social Security Benefits Paid On
1st-10th Second Wednesday
11th-20th Third Wednesday
21st-31st Fourth Wednesday
For a calendar showing actual payment dates, see the Schedule of Social Security Benefit Payments at www.socialsecurity.
I will rely on Medicare when I retire. Can you explain the different parts of Medicare?
The different parts of Medicare cover your specific needs. There are four parts, all of which work in tandem to deliver
• Part A (hospital insurance): Hospital insurance helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility
(following a hospital stay), some home health care, and hospice care.
• Part B (medical insurance): Medical insurance helps pay for doctors’ services and many other medical services and
supplies that hospital insurance doesn’t cover.
• Part C (Medicare Advantage plans): If you have Medicare Parts A and B, you can join a Medicare Advantage plan.
Private companies offer Medicare Advantage plans which are approved by Medicare. These plans generally help you pay
the medical costs not covered by Medicare Part A and B.
• Part D (prescription drug coverage): Prescription drug coverage helps pay for medications doctors prescribe for
By Rhonda Whitenack and Jim Czechowicz
Social Security public affairs office in Bloomington and St Paul