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Social Security – FAQs of Retirement

Janet Walker, RICP®

Ever wondered, “Hey, what happened to that Benefit Statement from Social Security I used to get in the mail each year?”

Of the many changes to Social Security over the years, one change is the mailing of the Social Security Statement. The agency used to mail out yearly earnings statements in an effort to get the public to review earning records and correct mistakes on a timelier basis. The statements were mailed out 3 months prior to your birthday, and they were a useful tool for the public as well as the agency.

So, why does the Social Security Administration no longer mail the statements?

One simple word, budget. When Social Security faced budget cuts, they saved millions by no longer mailing these statements. The alternative way to access your statement is via Social Security’s website. To ensure your privacy, you must set up an account. You will be asked some credit-type questions as well as basic identifying information. By setting up what Social Security calls a “My Social Security Account”, you gain access to your benefit earnings statement. If you have difficulty setting up the account at home, you can visit your local Social Security office and let them assist you in setting up the account.

Why take the time to access your benefit earnings statement anyway?

Your benefit amount is based on your earnings. Sometimes a year or two of earnings may be missing from your statement. What?! How does that happen? It isn’t a typical error, but it can occur. Let’s say two working years were missing from your statement. You filed your taxes correctly, and your employer had filed their reports, but those years were missing. You would need to submit copies of your W-2 to Social Security, and those years would be added to correct the error.

A couple of other things to consider when reviewing the statement:

If just one year is missing, Social Security considers that a “Gap Year”. If you do not have your W-2, then there are provisions for Social Security to sometimes credit your earnings for that year.

If you’ve been self-employed for a number of years and ever had to report a year as a loss, you may notice a $0.00 amount of earnings on your Benefit Earnings Statement. This is simply how the reported loss is shown on the statement, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you were unemployed that year.

So even though the government no longer mails your benefit earnings statement each year, every individual can access their own by creating a profile on the Social Security Administration’s website. I would encourage you to explore the website at, set up a “My Social Security” account, and you can have access to your statement at any time!

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

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