Sunday, May 18, 2008

Do you review your Social Security Statement?

What is a Social Security Statement?
The Social Security Statement is a tool designed to help you plan for your financial future. It provides an estimate of the social security benefits you will receive under current law at age 62, your full retirement age, and at age 70. It also lists estimated benefits if you were to become disabled, family survivorship benefits and whether or not you are Medicare eligible. The Statement briefly explains what it takes to become eligible for benefits. Basically, you must work for ten years to earn retirement benefits, and you must work at least five of the last ten years to claim disability benefits. The statement is updated each year to reflect your latest report of earnings. When you get your statement, you should verify that your earnings record is correct for previous years.

When will I receive my Social Security Statement?
By law, social security statements are mailed out annually. You should automatically receive a statement if you have a Social Security Number, are age 25 or older, have any job earnings on record and are not already receiving benefits (including Medicare). You should receive your statement a couple of months before your birthday.

Why is it important to review your statement?
This is important because your earnings record is what the government bases your benefits on (for retirement, disability, Medicare, etc.) Verifying your earnings record is also important because if the numbers are off (especially if they are off dramatically) it could be an indicator of identity theft or fraud.

What if you didn’t receive a statement?
You can request a statement at any time; information on how to do so can be found on the SSA website.

What if you find an error?
If you discover an error in any of the earnings Social Security has listed other that last year, call Social Security's helpline at 800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Have your W-2's or tax return for the incorrect years available.

Why am I writing about this?
Because the earnings record on my latest SSA statement was incorrect as were the earnings record of every employee at my company who had received their statement this year. My earnings statement had zero earnings recorded for 2006 while my earnings for 2007 were listed correctly. 2006 was the year my company transferred our payroll processing to an outside provider, ADP. This switch, for year-end tax filing purposes, was a hellish nightmare (ADP issued our company's W-2's eleven times before they got them right). Our accounting department is still working through the tax implications of this fiasco.

Upon noticing this error, I called the SSA hotline on my own behalf and discovered not only my 2006 wages, but the 2006 wages for every employee in our company was being held in suspense. I then asked my boss if his statement had been correct; his birthday was earlier this year. He didn't know as he had shoved his unopened statement into a file. This led me to believe our employees are not reviewing their SSA statements. It turned out my boss's 2006 wages were also listed as zero, while his 2007 wages were correct. Come on people you need to review these statements. This is your money.

On a positive note, it looks like this will be an easy fix. I sent a copy of my W-2 for 2006 to our local SSA office. On the company's behalf, per SSA instructions, I had the entire correct 2006 wage file resent to SSA.

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