By Kirk Larson
Social Security Washington Public Affairs Specialist
Whether you’re ready to retire, just joining the workforce or somewhere in between, regularly reviewing your Social Security earnings record could make a big difference when it’s time to collect retirement benefits.
In some situations, if an employer did not properly report just one year of your work earnings to us, your future payments from Social Security could end up being $100 per month less than they should be. Over a lifetime, that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in retirement or other benefits to which you are entitled.
Social Security prevents many mistakes from ever appearing on your earnings record. On average, we process about 236 million W-2 wage reports from employers, representing more than $5 trillion in earnings. More than 98 percent of these wages are posted with little problem.
But it’s ultimately the responsibility of your employers — past and present — to provide accurate earnings information to Social Security so you get credit for the contributions you’ve made through payroll taxes. We rely on you to inform us of any errors or omissions. You’re the only person who can look at your lifetime earnings record and verify that it’s complete and correct.
So, what’s the easiest and most efficient way to validate your earnings record?
Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to set up or sign in to your own My Social Security account. Under the “My Home” tab, click on “Earnings Record” to view your online Social Security Statement and taxed Social Security earnings.
Carefully review each year of listed earnings and use your own records, such as W-2s and tax returns, to confirm them. Keep in mind that earnings from this year and last year may not be listed yet.
If you notice that you need to correct your earnings record, check out our fact sheet at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10081.pdf
Sooner is definitely better than later when it comes to identifying and reporting problems with your earnings record.
As time passes, you may no longer have past tax documents and some employers may no longer be in business or able to provide past payroll information.
You need to make sure all your work history is posted. When we calculate your benefit payment we use your top 35 years of earnings and adjust your past work history for inflation.
You can learn more about how your benefit amount is calculated at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10070.pdf