How To Get A Social Security Card
Using Your Benefit Estimates
As your statement will show, your Social Security retirement benefits will vary depending on when you claim them before or after your full retirement age . The longer you wait to start receiving payments, the higher your benefit amount will be.
However, it’s not always better to wait until your full retirement age to claim your Social Security benefits. If you need your Social Security benefits for living expenses, or you have a health condition that makes it unlikely that you will live past age 75 or so, you may be better off collecting your benefits sooner rather than later. You can use a calculator at the Social Security website to see which retirement age makes the most financial sense for you .
For comprehensive practical information about how and when to claim Social Security benefits, see Social Security, Medicare & Government Pensions, by Joseph Matthews with Dorothy Matthews Berman .
Check The Social Security Administrations Math
Your statement includes a record of the earnings on which youve paid taxes and an estimate of the benefits you will receive at various retirement ages: 62, 67, and 70. It is always wise for you to check the SSAs numbers. Dont be surprised if you uncover an error. Some government-watchers estimate that the SSA makes mistakes on at least 3% of the total official earnings records it keeps.
When you check your record, make sure that the Social Security number noted on your earnings statement is your own, and make sure the earned income amounts listed on the agencys records mesh with your own records of earnings as listed on your income tax forms or pay stubs.
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Why You Should Check Your Social Security Earnings Records Every 1 To 3 Years
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Beyond waiting as long as possible up to age 70 to claim Social Security or claiming spousal benefits to maximize payments, there is one simple step workers can take to get the benefits theyve worked for: verifying their earnings records with the Social Security Administration.
Each year, your employer sends a copy of your Wage and Tax Statement, or W-2, to the administration. The earnings shown on those statements are used to determine whether you will receive benefits and, if so, the amount of those benefits.
If an employer fails to properly report just one year of your earnings, it could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in benefits over your lifetime. Among other reasons, earnings could be missing from your record because your employer reported them using the wrong name or Social Security number you were married, divorced or changed your name and didnt report that to the administration or because you worked using a Social Security number that didnt belong to you.
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You can review your Social Security statement, verify your earnings record, and get estimates of future benefits by creating a my Social Security account on the administrations website. Check that your account shows the correct amount you earned each year and the correct name and date of birth.
Your Social Security Benefits Will Be Taxed
Most people know that you pay tax into the Social Security Trust Fund throughout your career, but did you know that you may also have to pay tax on your Social Security benefits once you start receiving them? Benefits lost their tax-free status in 1984, and the income thresholds for triggering tax on benefits haven’t been increased since then.
As a result, it doesn’t take a lot of income for your Social Security benefits to be pinched by Uncle Sam. For example, a married couple with a combined income of more than $32,000 may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of their Social Security benefits. Higher earners may have to pay income tax on up to 85% of their benefits.
You may also have to pay state income taxes on your Social Security benefits. See our list of the 13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits.
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Apply Online At The Social Security Administration Website
The Social Security Administration prefers if you file for your benefits online. Generally, you may also choose to visit an SSA office, but they are all currently closed. You may still call the SSA for assistance. You can apply up to four months before you want to begin your Social Security benefits.
The steps to complete an online application with the SSA are relatively straightforward:
Go to the Apply for Benefits page on the SSA website here.
Read and agree to the Terms of Service, then click Next.
Review the Getting Ready section so that youre prepared to continue.
Identify yourself according to the questions on the application.
Either sign into or create a new mySocialSecurity account.
Complete the application.
You can save your application if youre not able to complete it all at one time. When youve finished, youll be asked to electronically sign the application.
Who Is Eligible For Social Security Benefits
Anyone who pays into Social Security for at least 40 calendar quarters is eligible for retirement benefits based on their earnings record. You are eligible for your full benefits once you reach full retirement age, which is either 66 and 67, depending on when you were born. But if you claim later than that – you can put it off as late as age 70 – youâll get a credit for doing so, with larger monthly benefits. Conversely, you can claim as early as age 62, but taking benefits before your full retirement age will result in the Social Security Administration docking your monthly benefits.
The bottom line: Youâre eligible for Social Security Benefits if youâve paid into the system for at least a decade, but your actual benefits will depend on what age â between 62 and 70 â you begin to claim them.
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Are You Eligible For Social Security
To be eligible for Social Security benefits, you must earn at least 40 credits over your working career. How those credits are calculated is complex, but you will likely qualify if you have worked for at least 10 years.
You may be entitled to a spousal benefit because of your partner’s work history. If your spouse, ex-spouse, or deceased spouse has earned 40 credits, you may qualify. The Social Security Administration provides more info about this option.
But your work history is not only used as part of the qualification criteria it is also used to figure out the amount of your payment. In calculating your monthly retirement benefit, the SSA considers your highest-earning 35 years of work history. If you worked for less than 35 years, the SSA will use zero for some years.
The higher your earnings over those 35 years, the greater your contribution to the program through FICA taxes, and the higher your benefit will be.
The same threshold applies to both your earnings and your benefits. This amount is $142,800 in 2021.
Creating An Online Account
You must be over 18 years old and have a Social Security number and an email address to create a my Social Security account, but otherwise, there is no cost to set up the account. Once youre on Social Security website click on Sign In or Create an Account. Youll need to provide your name, Social Security number, date of birth, home address and phone number.
Youll also need to select a username and password. Then youll receive a code by your choice of email or text message to confirm your identity. You can elect to add an extra level of security to your account by having the Social Security Administration mail you an activation code.
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How To Find Your Employment History
When filling out a job application or applying for unemployment benefits, you may be asked for your employment history. This is a list of all the jobs you have held, including the companies you have worked for, job titles, and dates of employment.
In some cases, the hiring manager may only be interested in where you worked for the past few years. In others, the company may want an extensive employment history going back many years.
If you’ve been working for a long time, this may sound like a daunting task, but it is something you can recreate yourself even if you don’t remember exactly when you worked at each job. Once you’ve confirmed the details, you can keep track of subsequent positions moving forward, so it will be easier to provide the information to prospective employers.
What If I Continue Working In My 60s
Many people whose health allows them to continue working in their 60s and beyond find that staying in the workforce keeps them young and gives them a sense of purpose. If this sounds like something youâd like to do, know that working after claiming early benefits may affect the amount you receive from Social Security. Why? Because the Social Security Administration wants to spread out your earnings so you donât outlive them. If you claim Social Security benefits early and then continue working, youâll be subject to whatâs called the Retirement Earnings Test.
If youâre between age 62 and your full retirement age, and youâre claiming benefits, you need to know about the Earnings Test Exempt Amount, a threshold that changes yearly. For 2021, the Retirement Earnings Test Exempt Amount is $18,960/year . If youâre in this age group and claiming benefits, then every $2 you make above the Exempt Amount will reduce by $1 the Social Security benefits you’ll receive.
Contrary to popular belief, this money doesnât disappear. It gets credited back to you – with interest – in the form of higher future benefits. You may hear people grumbling about the Social Security âEarnings Taxâ, but itâs not really a tax. Itâs a deferment of your benefits designed to keep you from spending too much too soon. And after you hit your full retirement age, you can work to your heartâs content without any reduction in your benefits.
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Request For A Social Security Statement
If you dont want to wait for your Social Security Statement to be mailed to you, you may sign up to get your Social Security Statement online. You also may be able to estimate your retirement benefit using our online Retirement Estimator.
If you would like to receive your Social Security Statement by mail, please print and complete a Request For Social Security Statement and mail it to the address provided on the form.
You should receive your paper Social Security Statement in the mail in four to six weeks.
If you were unable to create or encountered a problem with your mySocial Security account, you may visit a local office or call 1-800-772-1213 for help.
How Do Benefits Work And How Can I Qualify
While you work, you pay Social Security taxes. This tax money goes into a trust fund that pays benefits to:
Those who are currently retired
To people with disabilities
To the surviving spouses and children of workers who have died
Each year you work, youll get credits to help you become eligible for benefits when its time for you to retire. Find all the benefits Social Security Administration offers.
There are four main types of benefits that the SSA offers:
Learn about earning limits if you plan to work while receiving Social Security benefits
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How To Keep Track Of Your Employment History
For future reference, an easy way to keep track of your personal employment history is to keep your resume and LinkedIn profile up-to-date.
- Add the new information whenever you change jobs, receive a promotion, add new responsibilities, record a significant accomplishment, or receive any awards. This way, you will have a current copy of your work history for whenever you need it.
- Even if you don’t include all those jobs on your resume , save a master copy that includes your work and educational history in its entirety. That will make it much easier to provide the information employers require on your resume and in job applications.
- Creating and updating a detailed is another excellent way to maintain current documentation of your employment history, educational background, and accomplishments.
Why A Social Security Earnings Record Mistake Matters
A mistake in your earnings history can make a big difference in how your Social Security benefits are calculated. How? It all goes back to the benefits formula. The Social Security Administration uses your highest 35 years of earnings as a cornerstone of the benefit calculation. If any of these 35 years are incorrect or missing altogether, the average is skewed. One year of missing earnings can make a difference of $100 per month in your benefit amount. Over your lifetime, that could be nearly $30,000 in missed benefits from one year of missing earnings.
You need to check your Social Security earnings record today. Thankfully, its pretty easy to do.
Heres how to accomplish this in five easy steps.
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Check The Social Security Administration’s Math
Your statement includes a record of the earnings on which you’ve paid taxes and an estimate of the benefits you will receive at various retirement ages: 62, 67, and 70. It is always wise for you to check the SSA’s numbers. Don’t be surprised if you uncover an error. Some government-watchers estimate that the SSA makes mistakes on at least 3% of the total official earnings records it keeps.
When you check your record, make sure that the Social Security number noted on your earnings statement is your own, and make sure the earned income amounts listed on the agency’s records mesh with your own records of earnings as listed on your income tax forms or pay stubs.
Get Ssa Benefits While Living Overseas
U.S. citizens can travel to or live in most, but not all, foreign countries and still receive their Social Security benefits. You can find out if you can receive benefits overseas by using the Social Security Administrations payment verification tool. Once you access the tool, pick the country youre visiting or living in from the drop-down menu options.
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Social Security Benefits Are Recalculated On Retirement
Many people choose to claim social security benefits when theyre approaching retirement, even if they are not eligible for the full amount. Social Security benefits are recalculated regularly, and when a person reaches full retirement age, theyll have their benefit amount recalculated to credit them for any months that their benefits were withheld or reduced due to their income.
If youre considering applying for social security, perhaps to help offset the cost of Assisted Living, seek advice from your local office or Area Agency on Aging. A benefits advisor can help you calculate how much youre eligible for, allowing you to make an informed decision about applying for benefits before full retirement.
What Can I Look Up With A Social Security Number
The answer to this question is: Endless Information. If you Search SSN by Name and Address or even if you just have a name and state of last residence, you can access a wealth of information. Try this search for yourself now. The preliminary results are free.
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You Can Claim Social Security Benefits Earned By Your Ex
Just because you’re divorced doesn’t mean you’ve lost the ability to get a Social Security benefit based on your former spouse’s earnings record. You can receive a benefit based on his or her record instead of a benefit based on your own work record if you were married at least 10 years, you are 62 or older, and single.
Like a regular spousal benefit, you can get up to 50% of an ex-spouse’s benefit — less if you claim before full retirement age. And the beauty of it is that your ex never needs to know because you apply for the benefit directly through the Social Security Administration. Taking a benefit on your ex’s record has no effect on his or her benefit or the benefit of your ex’s new spouse. And unlike a regular spousal benefit, if your ex qualifies for benefits but has yet to apply, you can still take a benefit on the ex’s record if you have been divorced for at least two years.
Note: Ex-spouses can also take a survivor benefit if their ex has died after the divorce, and, like any survivor benefit, it will be worth up to 100% of what the ex-spouse received. If you remarry after age 60, you are still eligible for the survivor benefit.
A claiming strategy if youre divorced: Exes at full retirement age who were born on January 1, 1954, or earlier can apply to restrict their application to a spousal benefit while letting their own benefit grow.