Savvy Senior: How to verify your Social Security benefits
Jim Miller: The best way to keep an eye on your Social Security benefits and avoid any possible mistakes is to carefully review your Social Security statement, which you can do online.
DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: When my neighbor applied for his retirement benefits last year, he found that Social Security had made some mistakes on his earnings record in past years, which caused him to get a monthly benefit check that was lower than it should have been. He never got it straightened out. How can I make sure this doesn't happen to me?
DEAR PAUL: The best way to keep an eye on your Social Security benefits and avoid any possible mistakes is to carefully review your Social Security statement, which you can now do online.
Just go to http://ssa.gov/mystatement and answer a few questions to verify your identity, and then print your statement.
If you're age 60 or older and not yet receiving benefits, your statement will be mailed to you about three months before your birthday.
Your Social Security statement lists your earnings record for each year of employment, and estimates the benefits you and your family may receive.
Once you get your statement in front of you, take some time to verify its accuracy by comparing the earnings listed on your statement with your own tax records or W-2 statements. And if you spot a discrepancy, follow these steps:
Call your nearest Social Security office (see ssa.gov/locator or call (800) 772-1213 to get the number) to report the error. Some corrections can be made over the phone, or you may need to schedule an appointment and go in with copies of your W-2 forms or tax returns to prove the mistake.
If you suspect a discrepancy but don't have backup records, the Social Security Administration may be able to use your employment information to search its records and correct mistakes.
Once your earnings record is corrected, Social Security will send you a confirming letter. If you don't receive the confirmation within three months, contact them again, and double-check the correction by making sure it appears on your statement.
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