The Social Security benefits that provide most Americans with all or part of their retirement income are a tremendous asset that many of us take for granted and spend little time understanding.
Most workers in the private sector pay into the Social Security system with every paycheck — a contribution matched by their employers. Many people view Social Security as only a retirement system when, in fact, it also provides benefits for eligible workers who are disabled.
The system even provides benefits for surviving family members of a worker who dies.
Because the Social Security benefits that you earn play such an important part in your financial future, you should verify that your Social Security records are accurate and up to date. If you are 25 years of age or older, you should be receiving an annual statement from Social Security. This important document includes your estimated benefits, your earnings report and some facts about Social Security.
Carefully review each Social Security statement you receive to ensure that all information is accurate. It’s especially important to check that your name, address, birth date and Social Security number are correct. Also, look for any gaps in payment to your account.
Your records can become confused if you do not notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of such changes in your life as a new last name due to marriage. If your name changes, make sure that you notify both the SSA and your employer.
Another potential problem is an incorrect Social Security number. You or your employer might have accidentally provided an incorrect Social Security number, causing your payments to be credited to an account that is not yours.
The SSA recommends that you keep a record of your earnings so you can match them to the data provided on your annual Social Security statement.
For more information, call SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213, or log on to its Web site at www.ssa.gov.