Checking on Social Security Estimates Is a Good Idea, but Many People Don’t Do It
Checking your official Social Security statement is important to make sure your future retirement benefits reflect what you’ve earned over your working life. Yet a new report suggests that many Americans aren’t doing that.
In recent years, the Social Security Administration has greatly curtailed the number of statements it mails, encouraging workers to check the information online instead.
But fewer than half the 39 million people registered for electronic “my Social Security” accounts as of Sept. 30 had checked their earnings statements in the previous 12 months, according to a recent audit report from the agency’s inspector general.
Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for Consumer Action, an advocacy group, said the findings suggested that the shift to digital statements had left many people without “meaningful access” to their earnings history and that the government was falling short of its obligation under the Social Security Act to keep workers informed.
The administration’s policy on mailing statements has varied over time.
Two decades ago, most workers 25 or older received a paper statement each year around their birthday. The document provides a summary of annual earnings. It also shows the size of the check to expect each month in retirement, and how the amount may vary depending on what year the recipient decides to stop working.
The move away from mailing statements has saved the government money, the report noted. Last fiscal year, the agency spent less than $8 million to print and mail statements, down from $65 million eight years earlier.
The agency mailed just under 15 million statements last fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, the report said. When that total is combined with the number of people who checked their statements online, it appears that fewer than 35 million people saw their earnings statements.