The Social Security Administration (SSA) explains that creating a my Social Security account is quick, secure, and easy.
In full disclosure, I had never heard of my Social Security until reading about a new survey and research being done at the University of Southern California, which found that people of all ages in the U.S. workforce aren’t using the platform. That means those workers aren’t able to get an accurate estimate of their future retirement benefits.
The SSA explains that my Social Security “is your online gateway to Social Security.” The agency further notes that my Social Security, which “provides personalized tools for everyone, whether you receive benefits or not,” is free and secure. I have to admit, I created an account, and I found that the process was indeed quick, secure, and easy.
If you’re planning for retirement, here’s what you need to know about my Social Security and how you can use it to plan for your future — regardless of your age and other retirement strategies.
If You Are Not Receiving Benefits
If you are not receiving benefits from the SSA, here’s what you can do with your my Social Security account.
Probably the most important part of setting up your account is that it enables you to view your personalized retirement benefit estimates based on your earnings history, which certainly needs to be factored into your retirement planning. For instance, using the tool better enables you to plan for your retirement because it shows your personalized retirement benefit estimates if you retire at age 62, at the so-called “full retirement age,” which is when you become eligible for unreduced Social Security benefits, and at the age of 70.
However, my Social Security also displays your personalized retirement benefit estimates at nine different ages so you can see what those benefits will be depending on when you want them to begin.
If you and your spouse both create my Social Security accounts, you’ll also be able to see estimates for their benefits, and view the benefits you could receive based on your spouse’s earnings history.
You can also use my Social Security to print a letter proving that you do not receive benefits, have not applied for benefits, or that you have never received Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Finally, if you are not receiving benefits but have applied for Social Security benefits or SSI, you can use my Social Security to monitor your application’s status.
If You Are Receiving Benefits
If you are already receiving Social Security benefits, there are a number of advantages to creating a my Social Security account. For example, using my Social Security enables you to set up or change direct deposit of your benefit payment. If you are moving, you can also use the tool to update your contact address to reflect that change.
You can also print a Social Security 1099 (SSA-1099) form while you are signed into your my Social Security account. That form or 1042S benefit statement, commonly just called SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S forms, show the total amount of benefits you have received from Social Security in the previous year.
Each January, SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S form is mailed to people who received benefits in the prior year so they know how much Social Security income to report to the IRS on their tax return. If you didn’t receive that letter or need another copy, you can sign into your my Social Security account and print a copy of your SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S form.
Finally, another advantage to creating a my Social Security account if you do receive benefits is that it allows you to print a benefit verification letter. This letter, sometimes referred to as a “benefits letter,” “proof of income letter,” or “proof of award letter,” is your proof that you do indeed receive retirement, disability, SSI, or Medicare benefits. It’s important to have a copy of this letter because it can be used to secure loans, housing assistance, and mortgages.
Earlier I cited research being conducted and written about at the University of Southern California. Those researchers are Lila Rabinovich, social science researcher, at the Center for Economic and Social Research, University of Southern California; and Francisco Perez-Arce, an economist at the University of Southern California.
First, they interviewed 24 workers. The researchers then combined those respondents’ comments with the answers from respondents who took part in a larger, online survey to analyze how Americans use benefits estimates from the SSA.
The result of their research is a paper titled “Mixed-Methods Study to Understand Use of the my Social Security Online Platform.” You can learn more about their research and the resulting paper here.
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