What Does My Social Security Statement Tell Me?

In this article...
  • Here’s how to find and read your Social Security statement for estimated retirement, disability and survivor benefits, and how to correct mistakes in your statement.

Planning for retirement takes some work. You need to track your assets and figure out how much you will need to live comfortably once you stop working. A critical part of this plan is knowing what your Social Security benefits will be.

The best way to know what your Social Security benefits are likely to be when you retire is by reviewing your Social Security statement. 

What Is a Social Security Statement?

A Social Security statement gives workers an estimate of how much they can expect to receive from Social Security when they retire or if they become disabled. It also states how much family members may be eligible for if the worker dies.

The statement lists all the earnings recorded by Social Security over the worker’s lifetime. These earning are used to determine Social Security payments at retirement.

US News & World Report says to review your Social Security benefit statement to:

  • See how much you are eligible to receive when you retire
  • See what you can receive if you become disabled
  • Learn how much your family will receive if you die
  • Verify your earnings record
  • Check the accuracy of your Social Security and Medicare contributions

How To Get Your Social Security Statement

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will mail you your statement once you turn 60. To review your statement sooner than that or at your convenience, you can go to the “my Social Security” web site and create a user account.

How To Read Your Social Security Statement

The first page of the statement includes an overview of the information in the rest of the statement. It also has links to tools you can use to estimate or apply for benefits.

The second and third pages include your estimated monthly benefits for:

  • Retirement
  • Disability
  • Family and survivors benefits

These pages also note if you have enough work credits to qualify for Medicare.

Under the retirement section, there are estimated benefit amounts if you take Social Security at the earliest possible age, which is 62. There are also estimates for benefits taken when you reach full retirement age, which is 66 or 67, depending on your date of birth, and at age 70, when benefits reach peak value.

The amount you can collect from Social Security increases as you age. Collecting at age 62 brings you the lowest benefit amount, while waiting until “full retirement age” or age 70 can increase your benefit amount substantially. You can use these estimates to help plan when to retire and start collecting your Social Security benefits.

Pages two and three also explain how your benefits are estimated as well as your earnings as recorded by Social Security. Your earnings record includes each year you’ve worked, your taxed Social Security earnings for each year and your taxed Medicare earnings for each year.

How To Plan for Retirement

The rest of the statement explains more about Social Security and includes helpful tips for planning your retirement, depending on whether you are far from retirement or near the end of your career.

These tips include:

  • How to avoid a penalty when applying for Medicare benefits
  • What to know about taking Social Security benefits before or after your full retirement age
  • How much your benefits would increase or decrease if you take benefits earlier or later
  • How working in retirement may affect your Social Security payout
  • How to apply for benefits

It’s important to remember that these estimated benefits are based on federal law. The amount of your actual benefits may change as you get closer to retirement. According to the SSA, payroll taxes will cover only 76% of scheduled benefits by 2034.

What If There is an Error on Your Social Security Statement?

When you review your earnings record, make sure it matches your records of the money you’ve earned from working or self-employment. These reported earnings determine the number of Social Security credits you have earned and the benefit amount you are eligible to receive. If they are under-reported, your benefits could be less than you are entitled to when you retire.

If you think that the earnings reported in the statement aren’t correct, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-722-1213. In order to have it corrected, you’ll will need to verify your income by providing the W-2 forms or tax returns for the years you’re disputing.

About the Author

David Levine is an award-winning writer and editor whose work has been featured in the New York Times, New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated, American Heritage, U.S. News & World Report and others.

David has covered health, health insurance and health policy topics – among many others – since 2017. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in English from the University of Rochester and currently lives in Albany, New York.

Read More
A smiling couple uses their laptop computer in a bright room at home
After applying for disability, you may want to check the status of your application. Find out more ...
Woman and adult daughter embrace and smile while sitting on home front steps
Do Social Security benefits count as income for a dependent? Find out the answer to this question ...
Woman helps her mother review documents
The max Social Security benefit you're eligible to collect is based on your age. Find out more information ...