Checking Your Social Security Earnings Record

A step by step guide

checking social security earnings record online

How confident are you that your Social Security earnings record is accurate?

Unless you’ve checked it recently, you shouldn’t be too sure.

Mistakes in an individual’s Social Security earnings record are actually much more common than most people think. In tax year 2012 alone, the Social Security Administration reported $71 billion in wages that could not be matched to an individuals earnings record! The good news is that the Social Security Administration has a system for sorting out some of these mistakes and assigning the earnings to the correct record. But nearly half of the mismatches are never corrected. That means that in 2012 there were approximately $35 billion in wages that was never credited to an individual’s Social Security history.

Why A Social Security Earnings Record Mistake Matters

A mistake in your earnings history can make a big difference in how your Social Security benefits are calculated. How? It all goes back to the benefit’s formula. The Social Security Administration uses your highest 35 years of earnings as a cornerstone of the benefit calculation. If any of these 35 years are incorrect or missing altogether, the average is skewed. One year of missing earnings can make a difference of $100 per month (or more!) in your benefit amount. Over your lifetime, that could be nearly $30,000 in missed benefits from one year of missing earnings.

You need to check your Social Security earnings record today. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to do.

Here’s how to accomplish this in five easy steps.

Step 1

Visit www.ssa.gov/myaccount to get started. If you click the link, it will open Social Security’s website in a separate page so you can keep using this guide.

Once the page loads, simple click on the button labeled “Sign In or Create an Account.”
my social security account sign in page

Step #2

Type your username and password and click the button labeled “Sign In.”

social security online username and password page

Step #3

In the third step, you need to read and agree to the my Social Security Terms of Service. Be sure to carefully read this page before clicking in the “I agree” box and then clicking “Next.”

Although you need to understand this information for yourself, here’s a summary of what you are agreeing to.

-You will never share your information with anyone or use anyone’s account
-Once you open an account, you will no longer receive an paper statement in the mail. Instead, you’ll receive an annual email reminding you to login and check your information.

 

my ssa terms of service

Step #4

Now that you are on the home page, you just need to click on “Earnings Record” tab in the top.

 

social security earnings record

Step #5

On your screen you should see your earnings record. Check it carefully. If there is a mistake, the burden is yours to prove it. You’ll need to locate documents that prove the error such as tax forms, W-2 forms or pay stubs. If you can’t find these, Social Security says to write down the name and address of your employer, the dates you worked there, how much you earned and the name and Social Security number you were using while you were employed, and the agency will use this information to investigate the problem.

For more information from the Social Security Administration on the procedure, you can visit the section of their POMS manual that discusses this.

 

social security earnings

Step #5 1/2

Dont forget to sign out! This system has too much valuable information to leave it open.

 

sign out social security online

 

 

Mailbag: Opting out of Social Security and Medicare Coverage

answers to social security questions

Today’s Social Security question comes from Dan in Hawaii.

Question
“Hello, I read your blog online and wondered if I could ask you a question? I am a minister writing in regards to potentially opting out of SS on the grounds of my faith. If I do choose to opt out due to religious reasons can you tell me if my wife and I would still receive Medicare once retired? I have read articles that seem to say that opting out of SS will also opt you out of Medicare, but I have also read some articles that share that if we have already paid 10 years into SS that Medicare will then be guaranteed even if we opt out of SS? I would love it if you wouldn’t mind clarifying the ramifications for us specifically in regards to Medicare if we do opt out?

Thank you so much,

Dan”

Answer
First, how awesome it must be to live in Hawaii! I’ve never been, but I’ve been hearing talk around my house about planning a trip next year :-).

There are a few unknown things that make it really hard to give you a precise answer. Generally, ministers do have the option of opting out of Social Security, but they must opt out within the first two years of their ministry. If you’ve been a minister for a while, you simply don’t have that option.

If you are a new minister, and want to opt out, you must agree to the following language from the IRS Publication 4361:

I certify that I am conscientiously opposed to, or because of my religious principles I am opposed to, the acceptance of any public insurance that makes payments in the event of death, disability, old age, or retirement; or that makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care. 

If you agree to this language, the financial ramifications of opting out may not be important to you. But if you want to review them, please read my article on the cost of opting out of Social Security.

If you have already paid in enough years to qualify for Medicare, you’ll be covered even if you opt out of Social Security now.

If you opt out without paying in enough years (or credits), you’ll still be covered. You’ll just have to pay for what others get free.  The credits for Medicare purposes simply reduce, or eliminate, your part A premium.  The chart below lists the part A premium amounts for the corresponding Social Security credits. (Typically, one year = 4 credits)

Social Security Credits for Medicare

 

If you want to read about the number of credits required for other benefits, please read my article on Social Security Credits.

Thanks for your question!

A note for all readers.

I love Social Security questions! I’ll answer them privately as time allows, but if I think the answer will benefit a wide audience, I’ll also publish them on my blog. Don’t worry, I’ll change up enough personal details so you’ll stay unknown. Send your questions to devin@socialsecurityintelligence.com.

If you need individual and specific help, I’m always available for a consultation.

As a final resource, read my article on other ways to find answers to your Social Security questions.

 

Mailbag: Survivor Benefits and the Government Pension Offset

answers to social security questionsToday’s question comes from Jay in Louisiana.

Question
“I retired from a police department in Louisiana after 33 years. My wife got cancer and died two years later. She was in the medical field, paying SS. I was under the impression that once I turned 60 (and had not remarried {no chance}), I would be able to receive a survivor benefit based on  her earnings. As I neared 60, I checked and was told that my police retirement off set anything I could get.  So what about all that money my wife put into SS?  It doesn’t seem fair. She made as much or more than I did. And when she died her income just stopped.

Thanks for reading this and I would appreciate your insight.

Would repeal of WEP address this?”

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What Stay-At-Home Parents Should Know About Social Security

Stay at home moms and social security benefits

“Do stay at home moms get Social Security benefits?”

My wife asked me that question a few weeks ago after the topic came up over lunch with friends. She thought she knew the answer, but after hearing the varied opinions of her friends she was confused.

Here’s how I explained it to her in one sentence.

“Social Security benefits are paid to eligible spouses and children if the working spouse becomes disabled, dies or retires.”

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The Roundup

April 29, 2016

The roundup

During the course of a normal week I find myself reading dozens of articles. Many of these articles are by bloggers who write about Social Security and retirement planning, but I also consume lots of general personal finance material as well. Occasionally, I find an article that stands out.

Here’s what I found interesting this week in personal finance.

Enjoy.

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