1 thing to check before claiming Social Security |  Smart Switch: Personal Finance

1 thing to check before claiming Social Security | Smart Switch: Personal Finance

(Adam Levy)

As your retirement date approaches, it’s time to start getting more exact with your planning. A big part of any retirement plan is Social Security. While there may be debate about the optimal time to file and various claim strategies to optimize your finances, there is one thing you should check regardless of when or how you file.

You need to make sure the Social Security Administration (SSA) has correctly accounted for all of your past earnings.

Image source: Getty Images.

Check your earnings record

The Social Security Administration previously sent statements to everyone each year. Now that Americans have greater access to the Internet, the SSA by default offers that information only online.

To get your earnings record, you’ll need to create a Social Security account online at ssa.gov/myaccount. All you need is an email address, your Social Security number, and your mailing address.

People are also reading…

Once you’ve signed in, you’ll see an option to download your Social Security statement. You can also scroll down and find a link to your full earnings record, where you can see more details about your wages, like who your employer was.

Check the report to see if all the numbers look correct. A great sign can be a year in which your reported Social Security wages were $0. But some errors may not be so obvious.

It’s important to note that your Social Security wages and your actual wages may not exactly match. That could be because certain wages are excluded from Social Security, like your health insurance premiums or health savings account (HSA) contributions. It could also be that you earned more than the Social Security wage limit, which changes every year.

If all looks good, thank your lucky star and go ahead and claim Social Security when you’re ready. If you spot an error, you’ll want to fix it as soon as possible.

How to fix a mistake

To correct an error on your earnings record, you will need to gather proof. This could come in the form of a tax return, W-2, or even an old pay stub. Be sure to subtract any wages that would not be eligible for Social Security when you check your proof against what the Social Security Administration reports.

Once you have found evidence of an error on your earnings report, you should submit a correction request through the ssa.gov website or contact SSA and make an appointment at your local office. Most corrections can be made online, but you’ll need to contact SSA if you’re disputing self-employment wages and in some other cases.

Once you’ve submitted all of your documents to SSA, all you have to do is wait for your case to be processed and your earnings record to be updated. That could take months.

Technically there is a time limit.

It is important to note that there is technically a limit to how far back you can go to make a correction to your profit record. According to the SSA, “an earnings record can be corrected at any time up to three years, three months, and 15 days after the year in which wages were paid or self-employment income derived.”

But there are some notable exceptions to this rule. You can go back more than three years for many reasons detailed on the ssa.gov website. The biggest reason you could No being able to go back more than three years is if you are self-employed and did not file your taxes by the due date.

It’s a good idea to review your earnings report regularly. Not only will you definitely be within the time limit, but you’ll also be more likely to have files of your tax returns or W-2 forms readily available. But even if you’re nearing retirement, it’s not too late to make sure everything is okay before you apply for benefits.

The $18,984 Social Security Bonus Most Retirees Completely Overlook

If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: An easy hack could pay you up to $18,984 more… every year! Once you know how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we believe you’ll be able to retire with the confidence and peace of mind we all seek. Simply click here to find out how to learn more about these strategies.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

You must log in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.