When you are planning for retirement, you may want to know how much assistance you can count on receiving through Social Security benefits. You can make this calculation by referring to your Social Security Statement, which is available through the Social Security Administration. Anyone who is at least 25 years old has a right to see their statement. If you are not already receiving benefits for a disability, you will automatically receive a copy of your statement before each birthday when you turn 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60. After you have turned 60, you will automatically receive a copy of your statement each year until you claim your benefits. You can also view your statement online at the Social Security Administration website.
You should always verify the calculations made by the SSA. While generally they will be correct, the agency has been known to make mistakes. You should make sure that the earnings records match the earnings records that appear on your income tax forms or pay stubs. If they do, the statement will provide an accurate estimate of the benefits that you will receive if you start receiving benefits when you turn 62, when you reach full retirement age, or when you turn 70.
Correcting an Error in the Records
If you identify an error in these records, you can contact the Social Security helpline or make an appointment to see someone at your local Social Security office. (You can also simply go to your local Social Security office without an appointment, but you may face a long wait before a representative can assist you.) The Social Security helpline is available from 7 AM to 7 PM Monday through Friday. You should expect to wait for some time before a representative answers. Calling at the very beginning of the day or toward the end of the day can be a good strategy, as well as calling late in the week or toward the end of a month. You should make sure to have all of your records in order so that you can explain the problem to the representative.
If you choose to follow up in person at your local Social Security office, you should bring two copies of your benefits statement and two copies of any other documents that suggest that you are entitled to greater benefits. You can give the representative a copy of each of these items to help them correct the error. You should get the name of the representative so that you can follow up with them directly.
A claimant should be prepared for a wait during the correction process, which may take close to a year. To make sure that the correction took effect, you should get another statement after receiving the confirmation of the correction. Until you get the confirmation, moreover, you should follow up regularly to make sure that it is not overlooked.
Strategizing Your Retirement Based on the Benefits Calculation
You will get more benefits if you wait until your full retirement age instead of collecting them at the earliest possible age of 62. If you wait until age 70, you will receive even more benefits. This may not be the right solution for everyone, though, especially if they are struggling to make ends meet without their benefits or do not expect to live for a long time after they retire. The Social Security website offers a calculator to help a claimant decide when to start collecting benefits. Read more here about when to claim Social Security benefits.