Social Security 101: Check Your Balance Regularly

2020 Social Security Benefit Statement with calculator.
Bill Oxford / Getty Images/iStockphoto

In the past, checking your estimated social security amount meant waiting for the Social Security Administration to send you updates on your personal estimated benefit amounts.

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Now, with the new “The Statement” provided online by the SSA, it has become much easier to view your estimated earnings and any updates that come along with it — which can matter in a big way when planning when and how to retire.

The amount of monthly benefit check you receive in retirement is based on your highest-earning 35 years of work. The administration is no longer sending updates via paper mail, but you can easily access these by signing up in the online portal.

In order to do so, you will need to create a mySocialSecurity account through the SSA website. Once you do so, you will be able to access any update to the amount of your benefit as they are released and at your convenience.

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Changes in benefits happen for a couple of different reasons. The more money you make, the higher your benefit will be, and vice versa. The administration takes the highest-earning 35 years to determine your benefit, but this does not mean a full 35 years will be accounted for. You need a minimum of 10 working years in order to claim benefits, meaning that your benefit could be calculated on just 10 years of work.

Other changes can include COLA increases. Next year, the cost of living adjustment to all social security recipients will be 5.9% higher.

See: What Is the Average Social Security Benefit at Age 62?
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It’s crucial to check your benefits update regularly, as this will aid in planning properly for retirement. Your update summary will show the amount that you are estimated to receive at ages 62, 67 (or FRA) and 70. Depending on these amounts, you can then further determine what is your ideal retirement age. Keep in mind that the longer you wait to take benefits, the larger your check will end up being, and vice versa. In the end, the amount of money you receive over a lifetime will be more or less the same.

Retire Comfortably

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About the Author

Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who studied post-industrial capitalist structures at New York University. She has eight years of experience with concentrations in asset management, portfolio management, private client banking, and investment research. Georgina has written for Investopedia and WallStreetMojo. 
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