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Social Security Tip: Here’s Why You Need to Check Your Earnings Record

Social Security Average Payment
Image: Creative Commons.

Financial experts often try to pound into the minds of Americans that verifying earnings records at least annually with the Social Security Administration (SSA) could end up meaning tens of thousands of dollars of extra Social Security benefits come retirement time.

And all one has to do to stay on top of their earnings and potential future benefits is to create a mySocialSecurity account. By checking this online statement on a regular basis, one can immediately notify the agency if there are any mistakes in the earnings record.

Benefits Based on Earnings

“The amount of the Social Security benefit you or your family receive depends on the amount of earnings shown on your record. If all of your earnings are not shown on your record, this could mean lower Social Security benefits for you or your family,” the SSA notes

“If the earnings missing from your Social Security record are for the current year or last year, you don’t need to worry. Because these earnings are recent, we may not have recorded them yet,” it continues.

According to personal finance expert Georgina Tzanetos at GOBankingRates, “the amount of monthly benefit check you receive in retirement is based on your highest-earning thirty-five years of work. The administration is no longer sending updates via paper mail, but you can easily access these by signing up in the online portal.”

She continues: “Once you (sign up), you will be able to access any update to the amount of your benefit as they are released and at your convenience. Changes in benefits happen for a couple of different reasons. The more money you make, the higher your benefit will be, and vice versa. The administration takes the highest-earning thirty-five years to determine your benefit, but this does not mean a full thirty-five years will be accounted for. You need a minimum of ten working years in order to claim benefits, meaning that your benefit could be calculated on just ten years of work.”

Take Initiative to Report Errors

However, do take note that there is a set timeframe within one must report any mistake regarding earnings.

According to a finance expert at Barron’s, “you can’t correct your earnings after three years, three months and fifteen days from the end of the taxable year in which your wages were paid. However, you may correct your record after that timeframe under some circumstances. For more information on when you can correct your earnings record, check the administration’s website.”

If one does pinpoint an error, the expert advises to “try to collect proof of any missing or incorrect earnings, such as a W-2 form, tax return, or wage stub. If you aren’t able to collect those documents, try to remember the name of your employer, the dates you worked there, and how much you earned.”

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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