Why You Should Create a My Social Security Account

A my Social Security account allows you to view your contributions to the Social Security program. You can also get a personalized estimate of your future Social Security payments in retirement. Periodically reviewing your Social Security record allows you to make sure your earnings are recorded correctly and to factor the likely payout into your retirement plans.

Here's what you can do with a my Social Security account:

-- Check your earnings record.

-- See how much you have paid into Social Security.

-- Get an estimate of your future Social Security payments.

-- Find out how much you will qualify for if you become disabled.

-- Determine what family members will receive if you die.

-- Keep your account up to date by changing your address or direct deposit information.

-- Request documentation, such as a replacement Social Security or Medicare card or benefit verification letter.

You can open a my Social Security account at ssa.gov/myaccount. Workers age 18 and older are eligible to create a my Social Security account. Be prepared to provide some personal information to verify your identity. When you open the account for the first time you will be prompted to answer a series of multiple-choice questions that might include inquiries about financial products you own and previous addresses. You can also add extra security to your account by electing to use a one-time code received via text message or email each time you log in.

Here's why you should set up a my Social Security account.

Check Your Earnings Record

You can view a list of how much you earned during each year of your career. "Workers should check their Social Security statement once a year to verify the wage amounts posted to their record are accurate," says Nicole Tiggemann, a spokesperson for the Social Security Administration. Compare the salary on your Social Security statement to your tax documents annually, and take care to correct any mistakes so all your contributions get counted and factored into your retirement benefit. "It's the highest 35 years of covered earnings that count toward the benefit calculation," says John Palmer, a Syracuse University professor and former public trustee for the Medicare and Social Security programs. If you don't have at least 35 years of work listed, zeros are averaged into the final calculation.

[See: 10 Ways to Increase Your Social Security Payments.]

See How Much You Have Paid Into Social Security

Most workers pay 6.2% of their earnings into the Social Security system, and employers match this amount. You can find out how much both you and your employers have paid into the Social Security and Medicare systems over your entire career using your my Social Security account.

Get an Estimate of Your Future Social Security Payments

The SSA provides an estimate of how much you will receive in retirement at your full retirement age, which is typically age 66 or 67 depending on your birth year. Your account will also list the amount you are likely to receive if you claim a reduced payment at age 62 and how much your payment will grow to if you delay claiming until age 70. "In most situations it is advantageous to postpone because your benefit is higher at 70 than it is at 62," says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. The estimates assume that you will continue to earn your current salary until retirement and could be different if your earnings change.

[Read: How Much You Will Get From Social Security.]

Find Out How Much You Will Receive if You Become Disabled

Your Social Security statement lists the amount you will be paid by Social Security if you develop a serious physical or mental impairment that prevents you from working at the job you had before the disability began or at another position you're qualified for. Benefit payments don't start until six months after the disability began.

Determine What Family Members Will Receive if You Die

The children of people who are retired or disabled may also qualify for Social Security payments. If you pass away in the coming year, your dependent children and a spouse caring for your children will receive a specific amount each month that is listed on your Social Security statement. There might be a cap on the total dollar amount your family is eligible for. Your spouse and minor child could also be eligible for a death benefit.

[Read: Social Security Changes Coming in 2019.]

Keep Your Account Up to Date

Existing Social Security beneficiaries can use their my Social Security account to set up or change their direct deposit information for a bank or credit union account. You can also change your phone number and address after a move and get replacement tax forms. Registering for my Social Security prevents someone else from creating an account in your name using your compromised Social Security number and gaining access to your personal information. If you don't want an account, you can block all electronic access to your Social Security information.

Request Documentation

A my Social Security account allows you to request a variety of documents, including a replacement Social Security or Medicare card and a benefit verification letter. "People can use my Social Security to view their Social Security statement, which provides estimates of their future retirement, disability and survivors benefits," Tiggemann says. "Users may also download a copy of their Social Security statement to use with their financial advisor."


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