Social Security is changing the rules. In addition to eliminating paper checks by 2013, Social Security is no longer providing benefits statements as of 2011. Hold on to the last one you received because it is the one source for your income year-by-year for your work history. You can use the retirement estimator for calculating benefits, and the local Social Security office will give you estimated figures if you are considering retirement. The Social Security Administration proposes reinstatement of issuance of the benefits statement to individuals over age 60 at a future date.
Starting in 1988, Social Security participants could request a statement of the account from the Social Security Administration. Since 1999, Social Security has provided a statement each year to individuals over age 25 who pay into the Social Security system, reflecting the status of their Social Security accounts. The estimates provide concrete evidence of progress in retirement savings and allow workers to confirm the accuracy of earnings calculations each year. The Social Security statement arrives about three months prior to the worker’s birthday, but Social Security reports that June 2011 birthdays are the last to receive statements.
How to Get the Information
Social Security wants you to use the website. You can go online and use the retirement estimator, or you can wait until the Social Security Administration resolves security issues and establishes a procedure that provides a statement online. With the current procedure, you cannot get a list of your income over the duration of your work history but you can get an estimate of your retirement income. You could not get a Social Security statement on request in April 2011, reported David Hendricks of the "San Antonio Express-News."
Although you cannot predict the future of Social Security, you can make careful plans. Social Security estimates that benefits cover about half of retirement needs, based on needing 70 to 80 percent of your preretirement income. You will need income other than Social Security to retire. Develop a personal and joint retirement plan to provide the half you need for retirement in addition to Social Security. A pension plan, 401k, 403b, a Roth individual retirement account, savings accounts and investments will all help, regardless of the amount you have in your Social Security retirement fund.
When to Start Benefits
When to start collecting Social Security retirement benefits is one of the questions that a Social Security statement helped to answer. Because that statement is no longer available, older workers considering retirement may rely on a previous year’s statement or work with the retirement estimator, talk with friends and read information available on the Social Security website. Understand the issues of early Social Security retirement, including the penalties for earned income in excess of $14,160 each year until you reach full retirement age. Know, too, that if you collect early retirement benefits and die, your survivors receive a percentage of your early retirement benefits and not your full retirement benefits.
- “The Seattle Times”: Social Security Stopping Mailed Earning Statements; Stephen Ohlemacher; April 2011
- My San Antonio: Social Security Statements Halted; David Hendricks; April 2011
- "USA Today": Social Security Begins Phase-Out of Paper Checks; Sandra Block; April 2011
- Social Security Administration: Understanding the Benefits; January 2011