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How to Read Your Social Security Statement

by Miranda Marquit

Every year, the Social Security Administration issues you a statement, containing information about your earnings and your benefits. It’s a good idea to look over this information, to ensure that it is correct, as well as to ensure that your identity hasn’t been stolen.

You used to receive this statement through the mail, but this year everything has been switched to electronic delivery. If you want to look at your Social Security statement online (and you should), you need to sign up for an account.

Signing Up for an Account

how to read your social security statementI’d love to say that it is easy to register your Social Security account, but I don’t really know about that because my information couldn’t be verified. When you go to the site, you are asked for basic information: Name, address, phone number, birth date, and Social Security number. Once you provide that information, you are taken to a page that attempts to verify your identity by asking questions about loans that you might have.

Unfortunately, everything on that page, from the type of car I’m supposed to own, to a home equity line of credit I supposedly opened in 2002 (fascinating, since I didn’t have a home then), was wrong. I double checked to make sure I had entered my information correctly, and sure enough, there might already be indications of ID fraud. Hooray. But that’s another story.

Assuming you make it past the security questions, you’ll be able to check your social security statement for accuracy.

What to Look For

I’ve never had a problem with my Social Security statements in the past, so I’ll need to go down to the local office (an hour away) to find out how to get access electronically. But, once you do have access to your Social Security statement, look at the information. Verify that your personal information is accurate. You’ll want to have inaccurate information corrected.

Also, look at your earnings history. If your earnings are too low for some years, you might not get the benefits you are entitled to. Your Social Security benefits, for you, or to your survivors should you die, are related to your earnings. If there has been a mistake related to under-reported earnings, you’ll need to fix that so that you have the proper benefits.

Be on the look out for earnings that are too high as well. In these cases, it could be an indication that someone has used your Social Security number to get a job. While it’s a nice thought that you will get all those extra benefits, the downside is that your identity has likely been stolen. Reporting the matter could lead to helping you lock down your credit file.

You can call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 if you want to correct information on your Social Security statement. The sooner you fix mistakes on your statement, and in the records the government has, the better off you’ll be. It’s much better to resolve these issues now, before you actually need your Social Security benefits.


Published or updated August 16, 2012.
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